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Mental health of the father
In the parenthood transition process

HPA Magazine 21 // 2024

 

The transition to parenthood can be a challenge due to the need to acquire/alter behaviors, the emergence of new responsibilities, as well as the acquisition of new roles. 
It can be seen as a transformative process that carries risks of mental health for both parents.
It is known that depression and anxiety can affect women during pregnancy and after childbirth. However, men can also be at risk. 

 



 

Mental illness in either parent contributes to adverse outcomes for the child and the family.
According to studies, 5 to 10% of parents suffer from perinatal depression, and 5 to 15% experience perinatal anxiety, with increased rates when mothers also experience some mental health problem.
Some parents describe feeling exhaustion, lack of concentration, irritability, and anxiety. 
They also report the need to support their partners but with little certainty of how to do so. External pressure is mentioned by parents as they are considered the "strongest" and do not have the right to feel depressed at a time when they should be happy, leading them to not seek help and remain in silence.
In this context, there is a need to include the paternal figure in healthcare throughout this phase of life, in order to promote equal access to personalized support networks and the better adaptation and mental well-being of new parents.
 

 

It is also important for couples to be informed by healthcare professionals about warning signs, including fatigue, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, continuous headaches or muscle tension, sadness, guilt and shame, anxiety and irritation, fear of caring for the baby, difficulty concentrating and performing daily tasks, thoughts of death or suicide, disinterest in sexual activity, a desire to spend more time at work, and the use of alcohol or drugs to cope with the situation, in order to seek assistance in the face of these symptoms.
The completion of a mental health checklist with the professionals accompanying them is particularly important as it allows an understanding of what is being experienced.
Parents can be protectors of the mother's mental health, and their effects are visible in the well-being of the child. 
Therefore, preventing or treating paternal mental health problems can benefit the family as a whole.