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The difficulties of being a new dad

Posted on 18 June 2018

There is no denying that being a new mum is incredibly physically and mentally challenging. However research has shown that many dads can struggle with issues like postnatal depression too. Some feel they cannot reach out for help, finding that support is usually focussed on mothers. All these thoughts and emotions are valid, and there is support out there for dads who need it.

Fears and emotions during pregnancy

Learning that you’re becoming a dad is obviously a life-changing moment. It’s normal to feel a wave of different emotions as you process it – fear, excitement, anxiety, joy. 

Your thoughts and feelings will evolve over the course of the pregnancy. At different stages you may worry about finances, the future of your relationship, or if you’ll be a good dad. It’s important to keep talking to your partner, particularly if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. If this is your first child, speak to male friends or colleagues who have had children for help and reassurance.

Coping with miscarriage

Miscarriage is a horrific experience for both parents, but sadly it is painfully common. Around 20% of pregnancies will end in miscarriage. You should be there for your partner as it can be a painful and traumatic experience. 

Often sympathy will focus on the mother. However you shouldn’t feel like your sadness and pain isn’t valid. It is normal for you to feel guilt, helplessness, depression, loss, anger, and a whole spectrum of emotions. 

Talk about your feelings with your partner, or a friend or family member. Be supportive of your partner and work through the healing process together; it will take time. And don’t be afraid to seek help and advice. The Miscarriage Association provide useful advice for dads dealing with miscarriage.

Adjusting to a new baby

Having a new baby at home is overwhelming, there’s no point pretending otherwise. You’ll be tired constantly, anxious about doing a good job, and concerned about doing enough to support your partner. This is all completely normal. 

You may find attending parenting groups, such as an NCT group, a great support. You can discuss concerns and tips with other parents, and get advice from experts. Plus they’re a really good opportunity to make friends with other new parents.

Postnatal depression in dads

Postnatal depression is a well-known concern in mums, but recent research by NCT has found that one in three new dads are concerned about their mental health.

The symptoms of postnatal depression are much the same for fathers as for mothers. They include feeling very low, guilt, being irritable, panic attacks, insomnia, and much more.

There are two main causes for postnatal depression in men: a strained relationship with your partner, or your partner experiencing depression. Finances, age and past mental health history can also play a big part.

If you fear that you may be suffering from postnatal depression you should firstly speak to your partner and/or someone you trust. Find some time for exercise or your hobbies, even if it’s just going for a jog with the buggy. Exercise releases endorphins which can improve your mood.

You could reach out to other dads and discuss your experiences as a new dad. You may be surprised to find that others are going through the same thing. 

If the depression persists, however, you should speak to your GP. They may recommend counselling or antidepressants. 

Same-sex parents

These challenges are not unique to heterosexual couples. Same-sex parents will have much the same parenting challenges as anyone else, whether you’re adopting, fostering, or using a surrogate or sperm donor.

Stonewall provide some great advice for same-sex and trans parents.

Finding support

The NCT offer advice and support groups for both mums and dads, from pregnancy through to parenthood. 

Dads Matter UK provides support for dads struggling with mental health issues.

The Dad Network is an online community for fathers; they also offer local meet-ups and events.