This blog has taken me a little while to put together. Normally when I decide to write something I tend to just sit and type whatever comes into my head. I couldn’t do that with this. I absolutely wanted to do this blog some justice. The amount of times I typed something then deleted it is a bit insane.
I am going to talk about post natal depression (PND). Some of you may have read a previous blog I have written “Dealing with post natal depression” and perhaps you are wondering why I am writing about it again so soon. This blog is different in that I am writing about men. Yes men. Men who have had to come to terms with the fact they have been battling post natal depression. I didn’t realise how passionate I feel about this topic until I started to write and research it.
When I started this site I was chatting to a good friend about the type of things I wanted to write about. The usual “my experience of…” posts but I wanted to be a little different. I told her I wanted to do a blog about men with post natal depression. Her response surprised me. She told me she didn’t even know men could get it! My reply, “exactly”. So here we are…
The first thing I did when I started looking into this was Google “men with post natal depression”. I wanted to get an idea of what help, support and information was out there. The short story…not a lot. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of places for men with depression. But I wanted specifics. I typed in “post natal depression” and as expected, lots of sites and articles for women came up. It took some time but I did find some sites. I will list them at the bottom of the blog for anybody who may need to access them.
Ok, let’s get some perspective and look at the statistics. It is stated that around one in ten dads develop post natal depression. Some even say it is as high as 21%. Studies show PND to be more prominent in younger fathers in their 20’s, particularly first time dads and tends to develop around 3-6 months after baby is born. However It can even begin during pregnancy.
So what causes PND in men I hear you ask? Research has shown it’s very similar to what causes it in women. We are all human after all. Traumatic births have shown to be the biggest cause of PND. I myself had a traumatic birth (read my blog – “My labour” and you will see) and I can absolutely see how this can happen. I was lucky in that I had a team of people around me to help, even after the event. I had a short stay in the hospital and I had numerous appointments, both at home and in a clinical setting from day one of being home for the next few months. Each appointment I was asked how I was. Was I coping ok? Was I recovering well? Did I have any questions? I also had an appointment with the “Birth Afterthoughts” service where I spent almost two hours talking about what happened and asking all the questions that had been keeping me up at night and giving me nightmares. After this I felt much better, like I could move on. I never had a dream about it again. My husband however, never got asked once how he was. He saw me in the most life threatening situation I had ever been in, not just me but his baby too. He had two of us to worry about. We have chatted about what happened many times. I knew the questions he had so when I went to my appointments I was able to ask them for him. Why didn’t he just come with me? Well he had to go back to work so couldn’t be there. We are lucky that paternity leave is a thing now but two weeks is really not long enough (in my opinion). One huge question I have is why on earth men, who have been in these awful situations are not offered similar appointments? Why are they just left to “get on with it”?
PND actually often begins during pregnancy. Becoming a parent is probably one of the biggest life changes you will make. As a woman it can completely mess with your body, physically and mentally. Guess what! This happens with men too!! I will never forget when my aunty was pregnant. She had no cravings at all, my uncle however had to have Chinese noodles with Chinese curry sauce every night for tea for the last couple of months of pregnancy!! Maybe he was in sync with her body and hormones, who knows? Watching your wife/partner/mother of your child go through the things she does can be quite the trauma and does affect fathers. Your baby’s mother may be having an awful pregnancy, such as severe morning sickness (the morning bit is a lie!)or maybe her hormones are completely taking over and she is very emotional and this is affecting your relationship, even sexually? Maybe there is a feeling of rejection and some resentment for the unborn baby is brewing deep down, in a place where you didn’t even know it was happening. These feelings are very real and nobody should feel ashamed to feel this way. They need to be acknowledged and addressed ASAP. Added pressure is another big reason why PND starts here. Thinking about how you’re going to manage with a baby. How your life will change and how you will manage financially. You may not actually realise you have these feelings until baby arrives and the thoughts become reality.
One other reason for PND in men, which may seem like the obvious for some, but not everybody, is if you already suffer from or have a history of depression. This doesn’t have to be a specific type either. If it’s there or has been there, then chances are it could rear its ugly head again. PND in men can also be a result of PND in women. If the mother of your baby is suffering from this, then it is possible you can develop PND too. It can also be the result of a broken down relationship. Maybe you aren’t in a relationship with the mother anymore, maybe it wasn’t your choice and you are dealing with this and a new baby who you don’t get to see and bond with as much as you would like too.
Nobody can prepare you for what life with a new born is going to be like. Even if you already have a baby. My little one is just over six months old and in all honesty I can hardly remember what it was like when he was new born. I know I felt a tiredness that I had never experienced before but I can’t really remember what it was like. We also had a hard time with his feeding. He was very difficult to get anything down him and when we did he would projectile it all back, then scream because he was hungry again. But again I don’t remember the feelings around this, just the memory. I honestly think this is the bodies coping mechanism. Some people seem to sail through it, others do not. If you are having problems with baby, this can have detrimental effects and is another leading cause of PND in men. Your baby may have colic or reflux. These are swear words to new parents. Awful issues to have, but they do grow out of it eventually. That is not what you think when you are in the midst of it all. A baby that will just not stop screaming, you can’t get anything done and you can’t sleep. It feels like it will go on forever and it is so frustrating. You are sleep deprived and you have to go back to work. Build this up over time and you could very well develop problems yourself. Me and my husband used to take it in turns as to who gets up. One night it was me, the other night it was him. On our “nights off” we would sleep in the spare room so we could get some decent sleep. This isn’t something that goes on forever. We were soon back to sharing a bed (plus you get to star fish).
Having a sick baby can mean that you don’t get the same bonding opportunities that most other parents might. For example, the birth happens, it may have gone perfect or it may have been traumatic and your baby is taken away as soon as it is in this big wide world. Your baby is sick and nobody knew until they were born. Or maybe they did and this was all part of the plan. It is taken to a place full of medical machinery and things you have never seen before. It’s scary and your teeny little baby looks like a little dot in the middle of it all. You can’t hold your new baby until the Dr says it is safe to do so. You can’t take your baby home until they are better, so you have to go home alone. This is just one of hundreds of scenarios that may stop that bonding with your baby.
PND shows in different ways in different people. Signs to watch out for include, Fear, confusion, frustration, anger, relationship and marital conflict, feeling low or useless, feeling unwanted or rejected. It is often left undealt with too because men can feel embarrassed or they don’t even know they have it!!!
This isn’t the longest blog I have written and for such a short blog I found it really hard to write. I haven’t had any direct experience with PND in men. Obviously I did some research around it and I found it difficult to find help for it. There is of course the usual help for mental health problems but I thought there would be more on this specialised area. I have found some websites, which I will list below. Some are for help and advice and some are people’s stories and experiences. There is also the Edinburgh PND scale, which you can take online if you feel you may be suffering, which is what midwives and other healthcare professionals use in the UK. If you feel you may be experiencing PND please please please get help! You are absolutely not on your own!
Please click on the links below for help, advice, stories and experiences
*please note these are websites from around the world for a larger audience*