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Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health

Explains postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health problems, including possible causes, treatments and support options. Also has information for friends and family, including support and advice for partners.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Can partners get postnatal mental health problems?

If your partner is pregnant or recently gave birth, you might feel the focus should be their health. But partners can also develop mental health problems around this time too. This can include feelings of depression and anxiety.

Since it's connected to becoming a parent, some doctors might say you're experiencing postnatal depression - or paternal depression. Others might say the term 'postnatal' only applies if you're the one who gave birth.

But no matter how you label your mental health problems as a partner, you're not alone - and you deserve support.

This page covers:

"Overall it was a horrific time in our lives, for a total of around 18 months from falling pregnant to coming out the other side, which really put a massive strain on our relationship. Looking back, I'm not sure how we managed to get through it all."

Why might partners experience mental health problems?

There are many reasons that you might experience mental health problems while your partner is pregnant or after they give birth.

But these problems are more likely if you:

  • don't have good support networks in place
  • are struggling with other stressful life events like moving house, losing your job or a bereavement
  • have poor living conditions or are living in poverty
  • experienced abuse in your childhood.

You might also be coping with:

Your partner may also experience mental health problems during their pregnancy or after giving birth. This can make it even harder for you to cope with the normal struggles of becoming a parent.

Signs and symptoms of mental health problems

Everybody reacts to becoming a parent in different ways. But there are some common signs that you may be experiencing a mental health problem. These include:

  • fear, confusion, helplessness and uncertainty about the future
  • guilt, for example because you weren't the person who had to give birth
  • withdrawal from family life, work and social situations
  • indecisiveness
  • frustration, irritability, cynicism and anger
  • hostility or indifference to your partner
  • hostility or indifference to your baby
  • using more alcohol or recreational drugs than usual
  • finding it hard to sleep, even when you have the chance
  • physical symptoms like indigestion, changes in appetite and weight, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, toothaches and nausea.

These experiences can be very hard to cope with -  but with the right support it is possible to manage these feelings.

male and female with a toddler

Depression as a new dad

"I was barely even past a week into my journey as a father and I was already on medication and signed off work."

Support for partners

There are a few different ways that you can get support for your mental health:

Speak to your doctor about your mental health

You can talk to your doctor any time. This includes when your partner is pregnant or after your child is born.

Your doctor can refer you to local support services or talking therapies. They could also prescribe you medication for your mental health. 

Contact a specialist organisation

There are several organisations who specialise in helping and supporting partners during this time:

  • PANDAS Dads offers information for men experiencing postnatal depression.
  • National Childbirth Trust offers information, support and events to support new parents in their local area.
  • The Birth Trauma Association has information and support for partners of someone who's experienced a difficult birth.
  • The Fatherhood Institute works on policy and research to support fathers.
  • Postpartum Men offers support and information for fathers experiencing postnatal depression, including an online peer support forum.
  • Pink Parents offers support for gay and lesbian parents.

See our useful contacts page for other organisations who may be able to help. 

Self-care

There are a few different ways that you can look after your own mental health if you are feel like you are struggling. See our page on ways to look after your mental health when becoming a parent for ideas that may help.

We also have pages about different types of mental health problem that you may experience. These pages include specific self-care tips and treatment and support options.

This information was published in April 2020, and amended in April 2022. We will revise it in 2023.

References and bibliography available on request.

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