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Beating the baby blues: tips for dads

Pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood can be a time of enormous change for dads. Perinatal mental health expert Professor Marie-Paule Austin shares some useful tips for new dads.

Not only does your partner need extra support emotionally and practically at this time; but you may become increasingly stressed as you begin to tackle the demands of becoming a dad.

Feelings of anxiety are not uncommon for expectant and new fathers, as they learn how to cope with the challenge of a new arrival, potential emotional changes in their partner, disrupted sleep and increased responsibilities at home. 

Some dads may feel so overwhelmed they begin to feel that they are not doing a good job either at home or at work. This can lead to low mood and reduced enjoyment or even a sense of being a failure. 

But you don’t have to do it all alone. There are a number of steps you can take to help stay emotionally well throughout this time.St John of God Health Care support for dads

How to stay emotionally well 

Some ideas to help you reduce low moods, anxiety or stress include:

  • Talking with your partner, family, close friends, GP or other health care provider about your feelings and how you could better manage your stress
  • If stress, anxiety or low mood become prominent, consider consulting with a psychologist or other counsellor
  • Develop a list of friends and family who can assist you and your partner with practical help and/or emotional support
  • Learning to ask for help without feeling this is a sign of weakness or embarrassing

It is also important to keep in mind:

  • Women may need to make changes to physical routines involving lifting and carrying after childbirth - you may need to assist
  • Fatigue, mood swings, irritability, sleep disturbance and reduced interest in intimacy and sex are all quite common for men and women at this time and require mutual understanding
  • Accompanying your partner to her maternity and baby clinic appointments can strengthen your relationship with your partner and improve your understanding of what is going on emotionally for you and your partner

Should I ask for help?

It is better to ask questions rather than to quietly go on worrying. Getting correct information can help greatly. Doctors, midwives, child and family health nurses and parent educators all play a part in providing information. They can also correct misinformation.

Most importantly, know that you are not alone. If you have any concerns during this period, make an appointment with your GP who can assist you in obtaining appropriate help.

Other helpful resources

A range of online resources are available for dads and families which can provide support and further information if you are struggling:

  • Direct Advice for Dads - blogs and articles covering a range of tips for dads from planning and support during pregnancy to parenting tips
  • SMS4dads - parenting tips sent via movile and a range of online resources targetted at dads
  • Dads in Distress - a dedicated support group for Australian men who are divorced or separated and includes details of other Australian support groups for men
  • MensLine Australia - national 24 hour telephone helpline for men

About the author of this blog

Professor Marie-Paule Austin is the St John of God Health Care Chair Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health Research Unit, at the University of NSW, Sydney. She specialises in perinatal women's mental health and mood and anxiety disorders at St John of God Burwood Hospital.