Depressed dad 180New research has suggested that nearly four times the number of new dads are likely to be affected by post-natal depression (PND) as new mums.

Research from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) found that more than 1 in 3 new fathers (38%) are concerned about their mental health – compared to 10% of new mums.

Wider studies have shown that 1 in 10 of all dads get PND and fathers also appear to be more likely to experience depression 3-6 months after their baby is born.

Dr Sarah McMullen, head of research at the NCT, said: "We recognise the huge impact having a baby can have on dads as well as mums.

"Perinatal mental health issues can affect men or women so raising awareness of the specific concerns and questions that dads-to-be or new dads have is crucial. Dads sometimes feel uncomfortable about opening up about their feelings but we would encourage them to do so and seek the support they need."

In the report, 'Postnatal depression in fathers', the authors suggest that the increased pressures of fatherhood, more financial responsibility, changes in relationships and lifestyle, combined with a lack of sleep and an increased workload at home, may all affect a new dad's mental wellbeing.

Concern about their partner is another worry for new fathers, with 73% of dads surveyed by the NCT saying they were worried about their partner’s mental health.

Dr McMullen added: "In the same way as other forms of depression, depression experienced by a new parent can affect their personal relationships with their baby, partner, older children, family and friends. It does help for new parents and their friends and families to be aware of the symptoms of depression so that, if needed, help and support can be found sooner.

"Encouraging mums to support dads in their parenting choices and style may also be helpful. Dads who feel supported by their partners in finding their own ways of caring for their baby are likely to develop a strong connection to their babies and are less likely to develop depression. It may be difficult, upsetting and frustrating to live with someone who has PND, but it's important not to blame them for how they are feeling and to avoid being judgemental."

The NCT suggests the following for dads with perinatal mental health issues:
· Share your feelings with people you trust. This could be your family or friends, a health professional or a counsellor
· Try to take some time for yourself by maintaining involvement in hobbies, exercise, or social activities; even an hour here or there can make a difference
· Take some exercise each day, like a walk with the buggy or swimming. Exercise can have a positive effect on mood and sense of wellbeing
· Although many new parents experience mood changes or feel down some of the time, you may find that feelings of anxiety or low mood persist. If you have concerns about your own or your partner's mental health, it's best to seek help from your GP who can help you to access support services.

For further information, a new website was launched to coincide with Father's Day [21 June], Dads Matter UK.