Dads and PMH Issues
Around 30% of NZ’s mothers will incur some level of post natal adjustment or depression. Approx. 7% of mothers will reach a level where MMH services are involved, some will find respite in Mother and Baby Units or many others via support groups like Mothers Helpers or ..Charities…
An estimated 10% of fathers will incur adjustment or depression issues, some at the start of their baby time, others near the end of their partner’s recovery. Very few of them will be included in existing support services, some will be referred to or supported by Father and Child.
Father and Child offer understanding and lived experience of post natal adjustment, roles and relationship issues, depression and sorting of contact if absolutely necessary..
Our Auckland Support worker is also a member of PADA Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Aotearoa who provide a framework for training and sharing best practice in PND and related support. Midwives and counsellors are encouraged to engage with dads as part of prevention and recovery programs.
Father and child partner with Mothers Helpers in the North Island, attending couples or dads evenings and helping couples understand relationship changes, expectations and pressures.
Father and Child recognise that conception issues, miscarriages, terminations, pregnancy anxiety, unplanned caesareans, trauma births, PTSD in Dads or Mums, relived trauma, baby loss and post natal depression all affect fathers and families as a whole, mothers are not ‘the problem’.
If relationship changes, role adjustment and early baby time pressures were better understood and a shared parenting team approach was more common, many situations would be avoided. If fathers were engaged by midwives, maternity ward staff and Plunket service providers, issues with mums and babies would be reported earlier and possibly more accurately, improving outcomes and reducing MMH/PND support needs.
Postnatal Adjustment Programme (PNAP)
The Postnatal Adjustment Programme (PNAP) is run by Plunket Society Canterbury; services for fathers within the programme provided by Father & Child Trust (Christchurch)
The Father & Child Trust has been involved in PNAP since its beginnings in late 1999. The programme provides an eight week group and/or home support for post-natally depressed women. The Trust’s involvement has consisted of facilitating a partner evening as part of the eight-week project since February 2000.
Since May 2001 the Father & Child Trust / Plunket collaboration has been part of a funding contract with the Ministry of Health, which includes the partner evening facilitation, but also home support for the partners of post-natally depressed women. Although not strictly part of the contract, the programme also deals with post-natally depressed men.
Both the partner evening as well as home visits target these issues:
- adjustment issues for men becoming fathers
- social expectations about fatherhood
- relationship issues during the transition into parenthood
- support for partner; support for themselves; support for the relationship
- how to help their partners through the depression and facilitate the healing process
- managing the impact of the depression on the relationship and the child(ren)
The transition to fatherhood is a substantial change in a man’s life, and one which fundamentally changes his role in the family. Some men struggle with these changes, which can impact on their mental health.
A new father may find himself unable to relate properly to his baby (even if he had children before), be negligent about work commitments, be irritable, delay coming home from work, seek more solitude than usual, feel guilty about his small contribution, feel superfluous within the mother-baby harmony or stop socialising – any of these symptoms can indicate that adjustment problems have developed into depression.
Father and Child Auckland have partnered with MMH Teams at Waitemata and Auckland DHBs, giving extra support to the dads via telephone and in person. These dads may be suffering depression themselves, PTSD or struggling with the issues their partner has. They appreciate talking to someone who has been through a similar experience, sharing understanding, coping and strategies.
More on Post Natal Depression:
Riding Out the Change (Article in F&C#15)
Father’s Mental Health (Article in F&C#20)