Postnatal depression and perinatal mental health

Explains postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health issues, including possible causes, sources of treatment and support, and advice for friends and family.

Can partners get perinatal mental health problems?

Only mothers can formally be diagnosed with a perinatal mental health problem. However, studies suggest that partners can also experience perinatal mental health problems. For example, studies into postnatal depression in fathers suggest that around one in five men experience depression after becoming fathers.

Partners might develop a mental health problem when becoming a parent for similar reasons to mothers, particularly if you:

  • are a young parent without good support networks in place
  • have experienced abuse in your childhood
  • are struggling with stressful life events, like moving house, losing your job or being bereaved
  • have poor living conditions or are living in poverty

You might also be coping with:

  • extra responsibilities around the house
  • financial pressures
  • a changing relationship with your partner
  • lack of sleep

If your partner is also experiencing a mental health problem, this can make it even harder for you to cope with the normal struggles of becoming a parent.

"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."

What support is there?

Although there are fewer services that support partners, and you cannot get a specific perinatal diagnosis, there are still ways you can get support:

  • Speak to your doctor about your mental health. Your doctor can refer you to local support services, talking treatments and prescribe you medication if required.
  • Contact a specialist organisation:
    • PANDAS Dads offers specific information for men experiencing postnatal depression, via its Facebook page
    • the Birth Trauma Association has information and support for partners of someone who's experienced a difficult birth
    • The Fatherhood Insitute works on policy and research to support fathers
    • most diagnosis-specific charities can offer support to new parents. See our pages on specific diagnoses for more information.
  • Look after yourself. See our page on self-care for ideas on how to look after your mental health when becoming a parent.

This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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