Postnatal depression goes unchecked in men, but early detection is key to ensuring fathers remain present and involved

Dads can experience postnatal depression too.
Dads can experience postnatal depression too.

One in 10 men experience postnatal depression either during their partner’s pregnancy or up to one year after expanding their family, according to a study released by the American Medical Association.

During Men’s Health Month, and as we approach Father’s Day, we’re encouraging men to seek early detection and treatment of preventable health problems, including postnatal depression.

Many people believe that postnatal depression is only caused by the hormonal changes a mother experiences after giving birth, but often, first time fathers with a history of mental illness are vulnerable too.

Joburg-based obstetrician and head of The Birthing Team, Dr Howard Manyonga, explains, “The new demands and responsibilities that fathers experience during and after the partner’s pregnancy can cause overwhelming feelings of sadness, irritation, guilt, fear and detachment – the symptoms of postnatal depression.”

Read more: Coping with postnatal depression

But once diagnosed, depression can be addressed with counselling and, in some cases, medication.

“An assessment of the financial and work pressures that the father experiences as well as what support networks exist are important for determining what treatment is best,” explains Manyonga. And it's vital dads get the treatment they need.

Depressed fathers are more likely to engage in patterns of behaviour that negatively affect them and their families, such as substance abuse and domestic violence. But an early diagnosis of depression helps men so that they can remain present and involved.

So this Men's Health Month – this Father's Day – if you fear your partner, father, or friend, may be showing signs and symptoms of postnatal depression, don't shrug it off. 10% of men experience postnatal depression too.

Chat back

Dads, did you experience postnatal depression after your little ones were born?

Tell us your story and we can share it with our readers. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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