Fatherhood and mental health

Becoming a father is likely to be one of the biggest events in a man's life. Fathers may feel new emotions initiated by the transition into fatherhood. A father may find themselves excited to meet their new child, although they may also have worries about taking on additional responsibility and supporting their child and/or partner.

This resource provides guidance for new fathers, information on mental health in fatherhood and details on services which can support new fathers.

Advice in early fatherhood

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) developed advice for new dads in the early days of becoming a parent. You can read the full article here. The advice is as follows:

Try to manage your sleep as best you can - A lot of new parents can feel overwhelmed by the lack of sleep soon after having a baby. It is beneficial to get sleep whenever you can. You may have heard the phrase. "When the baby is sleeping, you should be sleeping." Well the old phrase rings true, try to get some shut eye when your baby does!

Connect through touch - Newborns appear very fragile, and many new dads feel worried about picking up their new child. However, holding your new child is an important part of the bonding experience, you can find more information from the NCT on bonding with your baby here.

Help your baby's mother to recover after the birth - Giving birth is a challenging time for a mother both physically and emotionally. Providing support with day-today tasks like feeding the baby, can be of great help to your child's mother. Research suggests that spending quality time interacting with and soothing your baby can help you to feel more comfortable together and bond.

Accept help from others and look after yourself too - During this time it can be beneficial to reach out to people who can support you, like your family and friends. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You can find more information on services which can support you on this webpage.

Fatherhood and mental health difficulties

Many of us are aware that women can experience mental health difficulties after birth. However, the peri-natal period (the first 12 months after childbirth) is also a time when men are at increased risk of mental health difficulties. Over one-in-ten men experience mental health difficulties when becoming a dad, and this number is higher for when the child's mother is experiencing mental health issues or experiences a traumatic birth.

Below are some of the more common mental health difficulties experienced amongst fathers, however, this is not an exhaustive list:

Anxiety - Every one experiences worries from time to time. Most dads will have some worries, for example about taking on their new role as a father and worrying about their new baby and it's mother. However, if worries are becoming more constant, hard to manage or interfere with daily life, the father may benefit from speaking to someone about their mental wellbeing. You can find more information about anxiety here.

Depression - Everyone feels ‘down’ occasionally but if feelings of being sad, moody, angry or unable to sleep or concentrate persist for more than a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of depression. It is important to speak to somebody if these feelings persist. You can find more information on low mood here.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - PTSD is an anxiety disorder which is caused by experiencing or witnessing a distressing or frightening event. Men whose partners experience a traumatic birth may develop symptoms of PTSD. They may have flashbacks, feel out of control of their mood, or have worries about their partner becoming pregnant or giving birth again. For more information on PTSD, you can visit our webpage here.

Below is a talk by Mark Williams, who struggled with his mental health when he became a father. Mark subsequently sought support and began advocacy to increase awareness of men's mental health issues in early fatherhood.

If you are experiencing mental health difficulties after becoming a father, please get in touch with the supports listed below in this resource.

Paternity Leave

When you take time off because you are becoming a father or your partner is having a baby, you may be entitled to:
1 or 2 weeks of paternity leave
Paternity pay
You may be eligible to take Shared Paternal Leave.

You can find more information about your employment rights here.

In order to claim paternity leave, you need to let your employer know the date when you would like to take your leave at least 15 weeks before your baby is due. It's best to tell your employer in writing so that you have a record.

Supports and Resources

How are you, dad?
This websites raises awareness of father's mental health and provides signposting to appropriate supports. You can find their website here.

Dad's Matter UK
This service provides support and advice to father's experiencing mental health difficulties. For more information visit their website

Working Dads
Working Dad's is a sister site to Working Mums, and arose due to the increased need to support fathers balancing parenting and employment. You can find their website here.

Keeping Well NWL
If you are working in health and social care in North West London, you can also access support from Keeping Well NWL. You can contact us via our chat, email or phone line if you would like more information on what supports are available to you.

NHS Start4Life
This website from the NHS offers help and advice during pregnancy, birth and parenthood. They offer a range of supports, as well as signposting to appropriate resources and services. Find their website here.
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