Welcoming a new addition to the household can be daunting for both mum and dad — you’re your baby’s lifeline in the first few years. The pressures of caring for a newborn may cause postnatal depression (PND) in some new mothers.
Yet, postnatal depression isn’t just a woman’s problem. Gleneagles Hospital psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng notes that this term can also be used when fathers fall into depression following their babies’ births.
A recent New Zealand study found that new dads who were stressed out, in poor health or no longer in a relationship with the child’s mother were at higher risk of depression. PND is more likely to affect first-time dads (and mums) in the first year of their child’s life. Young dads in their 20s are more likely to become depressed, especially if their partner has PND.
Dr Lim notes, “While there are no official statistics on depression of such nature in Singapore. Overseas studies have suggested that it may be as high as 10 per cent.”
“Men also tend to seek help only when their condition is severe, for example when they are feeling suicidal.”
Yet, awareness of postpartum depression in men is lacking. Dr Lim explains that it could be because a man’s role in parenthood is perceived to be less stressful and secondary to that of women. As all the attention is paid to the new mother and baby, her spouse’s well-being is frequently neglected. “Society defines men as pillars of support and often neglects men’s mental health as a whole.”
Depression symptoms in new dads ― similar to those in women ― may be evident during pregnancy or following their baby’s birth. Dr Lim lists the signs:
- Disturbed sleep.
- Loss of appetite and weight.
- Suicidal thoughts.
While women are more likely to seek help from others, men often seek solace in alcohol and drugs. Dr Lim points out, “Men also tend to seek help only when their condition is severe, for example when they are feeling suicidal.”
Discover how to avoid feeling depressed… Next!
Whether those low feelings are mild or severe, it’s best to get help. Dr Lim has helpful hints that should help you steer clear of the baby blues…
1. Sweat it out Exercising at least 20 minutes three times a week improves blood flow and oxygen to the brain, while releasing endorphins (natural feel-good chemicals) into the body.
2. Be prepared for your child’s arrival Make the necessary arrangements before your kewpie’s birth, so that you won’t feel overwhelmed. So, decide if you want to hire a confinement nanny and also budget for the delivery and other expenses. You miught also want to sign up for infantcare courses that’ll teach you how diaper, bathe, sooth and even carry baby.
Talk to your spouse to ensure both parties understand their respective and combined roles in caring for bubba.
3. Get adequate rest whenever you can The first week following your baby’s birth is going to be a physically and mentally trying time for parents ― fathers are now expected to be more involved. Dr Lim observes, “The lack of sleep arising from caring for baby in the night can trigger depression.” So, make sure you both take shifts when caring for your infant.
4. Work as a team and communicate Talk to your spouse, so that both parties understand their respective and combined roles in caring for bubba. Dr Lim explains, “If he feels neglected or side-lined, he should voice it out, so that this improves [your relationship] dynamics.”
5. Talk it out with friends or others You can put your troubles in perspective by confiding in a friend, or seek help from a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist. A vital step to avoid falling into depression is to identify and modify negative thoughts.
6. Get the support you need Don’t try to take on everything. If caring for your little one is more challenging than you thought, you may want to involve the grandparents.
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