Paternal blues

Apart from the mothers, fathers too have their fair share of pregnancy-related oft-ignored woes

Paternal blues

"Fathering is not something that perfect men do, it's something that perfects a man."

Fatherhood is the beginning of a new chapter in a man's life. Father's Day is meant to honour fatherhood and paternal bonds as well as the influence of fathers in society. While mums carry the babies for nine months, fathers too share a load of the responsibilities financially, emotionally, and mentally.

Maternal mental health is always highlighted, but fewer studies have been done around father's mental health during pregnancy and thereafter. The truth is that fathers too can experience a wide range of mental health challenges that can affect the entire family.

During pregnancy

Some amount of anxiety is normal around the time of planning, conceiving and expecting a baby. Some men experience unexpected and unwelcome thoughts and feelings that can interfere with their enjoyment of being a dad. The stress may revolve around financial worries, relationships, work demands and anticipation.

Sympathetic Pregnancy

The colloquial joke is that both partners gain some weight during pregnancy. An extremely rare experience is when men experience false pregnancy symptoms. This is called Couvade syndrome or "sympathetic pregnancy" that can occur when their significant other is pregnant and dealing with pregnancy symptoms.

There is a lot of debate around this and is considered to be a psychosomatic and hormonal condition. Some men even experience sympathetic labour pains.

Paternal postnatal depression

Yes, you read it right. Just like postpartum blues and depression for mothers, there is paternal postnatal depression (PPND). It is experienced by about 9-10 per cent of men and is more likely if the mother (wife) is experiencing it as well. A pre-existing history of depression, family history, drug abuse can also precipitate PPND.

Men may exhibit depression differently than women. Here are a few symptoms:

• Constant tiredness or exhaustion

• High physical stress levels exhibiting muscle tension, pains and aches.

• Loss of interest in sex

• Changes in appetite

• Sleep problems (unrelated to baby's sleep)

• Ongoing irritability, anger or moodiness

• Emotional withdrawal from your partner, baby, family, friends

• Fear of caring for baby

• Panic attacks like palpitations, shortness of breath

• Marital conflicts and not wanting to communicate with your partner, family and friends

• Feeling isolated and worthless

• Engagement in risky activities like using alcohol, drugs, addictions or other relationships to 'escape' or cope

• Suicide thoughts and behaviour

Tips for a new father to work on their mood and anxieties:

• Look after yourself.

• Paternal leave, a period of absence from work granted to a father after or shortly before the birth of his child, if available should be used by new fathers.

• Understand that the baby will come with a few new challenges but it gets better with time.

• Take each day one step at a time.

• Don't try to take on everything or fix it all. Raising a child is a team effort so ask for help.

• Keep taking care of your body and mind through good food, regular sleep and exercise.

• Don't stop being a couple. Focus on each other as you did before the baby.

• Ask for help if you need it from your partner or mental health expert.

• Your wellbeing is important for you, your partner and your family.

Movie watch: a light watch to see the scenario if men carried the baby: 'Junior' featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger

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