The Mental Well being of Babies born to Men Suffering from Post Natal Depression can be Adversely Effected, but Psychotherapy can be a Successful Intervention
Scientists at Oxford University recently undertook some research into the communications of post natally depressed fathers compared with non depressed fathers towards their newborn babies. Sufferers with depression can find communicating difficult and isolation is a common symptom.
The researchers found that those children of depressed fathers were significantly more likely to require medical intervention as babies and were much more likely to develop behavioural problems and peer relationship problems later on. This issue of paternal depression affects one in 30 newborn babies, or approximately 25,000 children every year.
However, despite these shocking figures, paternal depression is largely dismissed and attributed to a sulky self-absorbtion.
Post natal depression is recognised as affecting 10% – 30% of mothers. There is, as yet, no one specific reason for the development of PND in some mothers but not in others, but one suggestion is that it is partly triggered by hormonal changes before, during and after the birth. As men do not experience these changes as such, the argument stands that it cannot be Post Natal Depression. Terms such as ‘depression in the post natal period’ or paternal depression’ or ‘background depression in men’ are prefered by the scientists researching this phenomenon.
However, it is also thought that childhood experiences, life experiences and the expectations and fantasies about the baby and parenthood can also contribute to PND. Men can certainly experience depression after the birth of a child. This is a time of enormous change in life when much of who a person is and what he expects has to be reassessed in the light of this new responsibility. Pre existing depression may be experienced more deeply or the stress of being a father may seem overwhelming.
It is important for men in this situation to recognise that they are struggling and seek help. Researchers continue to point out that the main problem with male depression is that men do not admit to having a problem, thereby exacerbating the issue and potentially leading to self destructive behaviour, loss of employment, illness, suicide and, in the case of this article, knock on harmful effects to the mental well being of their children.
Admitting to feeling depressed after the birth of a child is an important step towards doing something to challenge these feelings. Seeing a psychotherapist or counsellor can be the next step. A psychotherapist can help explore the feelings that lie behind being a father, the worries, hopes and fears. A psychotherapist can also help you understand your own childhood better and how these experiences may be contributing to the depression.
The psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice at 121 Harley Street, London, acknowledge that men can struggle with becoming a father and have successfully worked with men suffering from paternal depression.