Baby Man

Research by the National Childbirth Trust suggests that men also suffer from the baby blues CREDIT: ALAMY

Postnatal depression, a mental disorder commonly experienced by women after the birth of a child, may also present in men, new research suggests.

A survey by the National Childbirth Trust has revealed that 1 in 3 new fathers worry about their mental health, with some believing that they may be suffering from the ‘baby blues’.

The causes of this depression in men differ slightly to those thought to trigger female postnatal depression. Whereas women suffer a drop in oestrogen and feelings of isolation, the most common factors cited by men were ‘pressures of fatherhood’, ‘money troubles’ and ‘a lack of sleep’.

73 per cent of those surveyed said that they were also stressed due to constantly worrying about their female partner’s mental health.

73 per cent of men were found to worry about their female partners CREDIT: BILL CHEYROU/ALAMY

Dr Sarah McMullen, Head of Research at the National Childbirth Trust, believes that the changing role of men in childcare may be responsible for the rise in male postnatal depression.

“Times are changing,” says McMullen. “Men are much more involved both in attending the birth, for example, compared to many years ago and much more involved as dads in the early weeks and months of their baby’s life. This means that they are experiencing the challenges of relationship changes and the financial strain – just like mothers do.

““We recognise the huge impact having a baby can have on dads as well as mums,” McMullen continues. “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.”

The NCT encourages men to contact them with any questions about fatherhoodCREDIT: GETTY

Mark Williams – a previous winner of the ‘Father of the Year’ award and founder of support group Dads Matter UK – suffered mental health problems after the birth of his first child.

“There are all sorts of reasons why men suffer mental health problems after the birth of a child,” says Williams. “Some suffer from postnatal depression themselves whilst others get downcast because their partners have mental health troubles. I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing my wife’s distressing birth.”

After seeking help, Williams recovered and has become a prominent figure in highlighting male postnatal depression as an issue. He has authored two books, given talks and publishes a magazine on the disorder, a problem which he believes is exacerbated by men’s aversion to admitting that they are ill.

Last year, it was found that one in eight men also suffer depression during their partner’s pregnancy CREDIT: ALAMY

John Chisholm, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee, believes that British ‘stiff upper lip’ society has bred generations of men who believe that accepting you need help is to somehow surrender your masculinity.

“There is a cultural understanding that all men should be macho,” says the doctor. “But we need to understand that this expectation of stoic masculinity is putting lives at risks – men shouldn’t be bottling these things up.”