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  Postnatal depression – Father
Since my wife had her baby I have been feeling very flat and lethargic. It is really strange because I was so excited about becoming a father, but since the birth of my son, all I do is worry about what kind of father I will turn out to be. I know that my wife is puzzled by my behaviour, and thinks that I am letting her down. Can you help me figure out what is going on?

Although you may not have heard of such a thing, men do get postnatal depression too. In fact, as many as 15% of new fathers find themselves experiencing feelings of sadness and inadequacy.

The fact that you are struggling is really not that surprising. Your life has changed irrevocably. You may be feeling isolated and left out of this strong bond that you see between your wife and your child. You may be mourning the loss of your formerly active sex life. You may wonder if you will ever have a social life again. And so on. In addition, the fact that you feel ‘what about me’ when your wife is having a tough time physically, can make you feel that you are shallow and selfish person.

You have been taking good care of your family, and holding down your regular job, and part of the problem is that you may be forgetting to take care of yourself. So start by looking at whether you and your wife can alternate night feeds so that one of you gets a good sleep. Discuss options with her, including getting a night nurse once a week so that the two of you can sleep. Take a look at your diet, and make sure that it is well balanced. Nutrition has been found to play a role in depression. If you are neglecting to exercise, then perhaps you can be creative in this. When you get home from work, offer to take the baby to the park for a brisk walk. This action has a variety of spin offs. You get time to bond with your baby and gain confidence in dealing with him. You get fresh air and exercise, which are beneficial. Your wife gets time on her own to have a nap or do some chores. She will be appreciative. You will feel part of things.

These are just suggestions that may not work for your life. But the idea is that you need to look at your needs, and then find creative ways to fulfil them that cements your family connections. The danger at this time, is that many men find that going to the pub, or socialising with other men, is the easiest way to feel a bit better. But this is not a solution, and can lead to as many problems as it solves.

What may really help is to find someone you can talk to. There are helplines and trained practitioners who will regard your situation as perfectly normal and be able to help you get through this difficult time. The Post Natal Depression Support Association may be able to guide you in this. Their website is www.pndsa.org.za.

Remind yourself that you feelings are situational. Change of any kind is not easy for humans, and parenthood has wreaked havoc in your life. Be as kind and patient with yourself as you are with your wife. With the right interventions, you should be soon able to look back at this time and know that you did you best under the circumstances.

See also:

Postnatal depression - Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression - Causes

Postnatal depression - Father’s Embarrassment

Postnatal depression - Helping Yourself

Postnatal depression - Predisposition

Postnatal depression - Postnatal depression or baby blues?

Postnatal depression - Treatment

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