Postnatal Depression in Dads: Signs and Symptoms to Look out For


Postnatal depression in dads is a not a subject many of us discuss on a daily basis, but, according to psychotherapist Noel McDermott, it should be. Here are the symptoms of male postnatal depression to look out for.

Postpartum and postnatal depression are words you often hear in talks about mental health. And rightly so. However, postnatal depression in dads is rarely at the forefront of these discussions. Most often associated with new mothers, postnatal depression and anxiety can occur when a mum’s mental health suffers after giving birth. It’s something many women experience, and stigmas around the topic are starting to dispel.

However, you may be surprised to hear that fathers, too, can experience changes in hormones and mental health during and after their partners’ pregnancy. Nevertheless, postnatal depression in dads remains a subject shrouded in tabboo.

According to psychotherapist Noel McDermott, 1 in 10 dads will experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy, while 1 in 5 will suffer post-partum depression. The NCT supports these figures and goes on to explain the peak time for postnatal depression in dads is between three to six months after birth.

What Causes Postnatal Depression in Dads? Who is Most at Risk?

Dad holding baby
Credit: iStock

While the causes of male postnatal depression have not been confirmed, it’s thought that the changes and difficulties of adjusting to life as a new parent could be contributing factors.

Just as a mother can struggle with the shift of responsibilities as a new parent, fathers can also find it difficult to handle the sleep deprivation, money worries and changes to a relationship that often come with the arrival of a new baby.

It’s also claimed new dads may be feeling guilty about their situation, having not been through labour or battling breastfeeding woes.

Moreover, some men may be deemed a higher risk than others, owing to a number of factors. These include:

  • A family history of depression or other mood disorders, addiction or other mental health problems.
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: Separation, abuse, trauma, neglect, parental addiction or mental health issues.
  • Trigger events

What are the Symptoms of Postnatal Depression in Dads?

“Men’s mental health can get lost so you can help in this process,” Noel explains. “The best way to get your man to change his mental health habits is through you.”

If your partner feels supported and emotionally healthy this can benefit the whole family, and therefore a fast diagnosis is essential. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Sudden shifts in mood and emotional withdrawal
  • Increase in drinking
  • Anger issues emerging and in some cases the appearance of intimate partner violence
  • Changes to eating habits and weight
  • Withdrawal from family life and social life
  • Change in sleeping patterns

What can you do to Help Someone Suffering from Male Postnatal Depression?

Noel explains that if any of these symptoms are present, then a lot can be done in terms of professional help.

Firstly, improving education and what to look out for when it comes to depression makes spotting the signs easier. A wider discussion will also make finding suitable medication an easier challenge.

“Teaching cognitive behavioural therapy techniques,” he adds, “presenting it as education rather than therapy can overcome resistance to traditional ‘therapy’.

You can also help by encouraging your partner to attend local support groups, activities or sports clubs.

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