Coping Tactics for Days-to-Be

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
When people think of postnatal depression, they usually think of mothers as having it. However, many fathers develop postnatal depression as well, and more commonly than not. Also known as PND – this type of depression can happen either gradually or suddenly, depending on the individual. The Medical Research Council revealed that one in twenty-eight fathers experienced PND within the first year of the birth of a child.
Understandably, it is an adjustment for fathers too. They go from having frequent intimate relationships with their spouses to suddenly the baby takes first priority. Some fathers feel slighted or overlooked by their mates. Suddenly their wife is “ga-ga” about someone else, when before the baby came along she may have spent more time doting on him.

Financial pressures also take a toll on dads. Suddenly, instead of spending time going out on dates, they must bring home a box of diapers, can of baby formula, toys, clothes, sneakers, baby furniture, and more. Especially in unplanned pregnancies, this is something many fathers feel unprepared for. This can lead to depression in men, and in some severe cases it can alienate his relationship or ability to connect with the child.
There are some men who fear the baby, feeling as though by holding it or touching it, the newborn might break. Babies cannot hold their head up for about a month after birth, which can be scary for a masculine guy. He may have anxiety about changing diapers, especially if he has a weak stomach. These are among the many reasons that such an adjustment is tough on dads, too, not just mothers.
So, what can a father-to-be do to prevent the likeliness of depression? Coping strategies are not just for expectant mothers. Here are some suggestions for dads-to-be as they move into a new stage of maturity by becoming a parent:

  • Participate more in the decisions about the child. By becoming more involved, the father can become more connected to the baby both before birth and afterwards.
  • Communicate your needs. Men are naturally less apt to talk about their feelings, but reaching out and expressing things that cause you anxiety, resentment or nervousness can be a good way to overcome them.
  • Spiritual counseling or therapy. Many men will refuse to admit that anything is wrong, but inside they feel like shouting. Anger can stem from not being able to discuss the things that are bothering you, and therapy or spiritual counsel should not be taken as a sign of weakness, but rather as strength. The strongest people are those who can admit they have needs that are unmet.
  • If the baby is crying and you feel overwhelmed or like you want to snap, get help immediately. Call someone, whether it is the mother, your brother, mother or anyone. Don’t stay alone with an infant if you feel unable to handle the care.
  • Bond with the baby right away, even before birth. Dads who participate more, like going to the doctor’s appointments with their spouse, seeing ultrasound pictures, doing a family “maternity” shoot with a photographer, or building a nursery may be more likely to connect with the baby than those who leave all of those things up to their spouse.
  • Talk to the belly. Evidence reveals that babies can hear and become familiar with the family’s voices, especially the mothers. But Dads can also listen to the baby’s heartbeat, talk to the baby through the belly, feel the baby kicking and be more actively involved with the pregnancy.
  • Make time for yourself. Keep your workout at the gym, or your golf game with the guys once a week, or whatever enjoyment you need. Everyone needs a refresher, especially new parents; both the mothers and fathers.
  • Keep a date night with your mate. People say this, but it is true. To keep that flame burning between you and your significant other, you must make time for just the two of you. Alone. Without the baby. In fact, make it a pact to talk about non-baby related topics while on your date.
For dads-to-be, the day their son or daughter is born can be filled with anxiety, or even terror. Try not to be afraid and embrace your new role as “Dad”. Remember, this child will look up to you forever, so be that Dad that sets the best example and role model for your kid.

 

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