On postnatal depression

I’m going to file this under “Better late than never”, cross-indexed to “No shit, Sherlock”.

Discussion of mental health has over the last several years become less taboo than it was. 

It doesn’t seem that long ago (it was 14 years, eep) that I was called ‘brave’ for writing about my own experience. Nowadays it seems natural for people like Henry to describe their (much worse) Adventures with Branes with what I can only term gay abandon. 

This is undoubtedly a good thing. We’re able, for example, to have sensible and sensitive conversations with colleagues about their need to have days off because of their anxiety, and to help them with their struggles.

Sadly, though, I don’t think the stigma has totally disappeared, and especially not when it comes to that most unmanly affliction, paternal postnatal depression. Which is what I had. 

But maybe things will change there, too. 

It turns out (here’s the ‘No shit, Sherlock’ bit) that postnatal depression can affect mothers and fathers simultaneously. This is the finding of a peer-reviewed systematic review and meta-analysis, which therefore makes it Official.  (Smythe KL et al. JAMA Netw Open 2022;5(6)e2218969)

The numbers don’t seem that remarkable. Around 9% of fathers experience postnatal depression, and 3% of couples suffer simultaneously. But multiply that by the number of babies being born (650,000 annually in the UK) and … that’s a lot of depressed men walking around.

Or lying down not being able to get up. 

And it’s not just for a few weeks and then you get better—the report hints that men can suffer up to a year. My experience is that it can be a lot longer.

For fathers, the main factors associated with an increased risk of perinatal mood disorder were lower levels of education, unemployment, low social support and marital distress.

An earlier paper by the study team reported that up to 40% of new mothers do not get a postnatal check-up 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth, despite this being recommended by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). 

There is no such check-up for men.

Fortunately, despite having to bottle it up for a while, I got better. It wasn’t easy, though, and it’s still painful to think about that period, but others might not even be that fortunate.

So, please: look out for your mates who have just or are about to become fathers. You never know what good you might be doing.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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2 Responses to On postnatal depression

  1. Henry says:

    Hang on in there Richard. Of course a major factor (I suspect) in mental health is getting plenty of sleep. Something that’s in short supply when there’s a new baby in the house.

  2. rpg says:

    You make it sound like I’m pregnant again. Which I’m not.

    But yes, sleep helps.

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