for better mental health

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.

Can partners experience perinatal mental health problems?

Doctors can only formally diagnose you with a perinatal mental health problem if you are pregnant or have given birth to a child in the past year.

But if your partner is pregnant or recently gave birth, you may also experience mental health problems during this time. For example, some studies show that partners can experience depression or anxiety around the time of their child's birth.

If you think you're experiencing a mental health problem, there is help and support available. 

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"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.

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."

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.

If you think you're experiencing mental health problems, it is possible to manage these feelings with the right support.

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 speak to your doctor any time you experience mental health problems. This includes during the time that your partner is pregnant or after your child is born.

Your doctor can refer you to local support services or talking therapies. They can 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. We will revise it in 2023.

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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