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Many new fathers worried about their mental health

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More than one in three new fathers are concerned about their mental health, according to new research from the National Childbirth Trust.

The charity suggested the pressures of fatherhood, financial responsibility, changes in relationships and lifestyle, combined with a lack of sleep and increased workload at home, may all affect mental wellbeing.

“Perinatal mental health issues can affect men or women”

Sarah McMullen

The survey also found 73% of new fathers were worried about their partner’s mental health.

The NCT said it was important that men were encouraged and supported to speak up about their experiences, if not to their partner, then to their family, friends or GP.

Dr Sarah McMullen, head of research at the NCT, said: “Perinatal mental health issues can affect men or women so raising awareness of the specific concerns and questions that dads-to-be or new dads have is crucial.

“Dads sometimes feel uncomfortable about opening up about their feelings but we would encourage them to do so and seek the support they need,” she said.

Michelle Lyne, professional advisor for education at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The woman and baby will always of course be the main priority and focus of the midwife’s care. However, this survey does highlight an issue that we all need to be aware of.

“Maternity services are making great strides in taking a whole family approach to care,” she said. “They recognise the significant and important role that fathers have in supporting their partner throughout and after pregnancy.” 

“Midwives have a role to play in supporting fathers”

Michelle Lyne

She noted that the RCM had produced a Fathers Guide in 2013 to help midwives support fathers through their partners’ pregnancy.

Ms Lyne added: “Midwives have a role to play in supporting fathers. For example they can assess the health and wellbeing of both the mother and father during the early postnatal period, and refer them on to the appropriate health professional if needed.”

The findings are based on a mixed-methods longitudinal study of first-time parents’ experiences and attitudes during the first two years following the birth of their baby, which was carried out by the NCT in 2013-14.

Researchers invited men and women to complete online questionnaires at two time-points: one during their baby’s first year and the other one year later.

In total, 869 first-time mothers and 296 first-time fathers responded in full to the first questionnaire when their babies were on average eight months old.

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