Dads have a major influence on whether or not mum’s access help when they might need it and how they manage the challenges of pregnancy and a new baby

Dads can have a big influence on whether mothers go for help and get assistance when struggling with anxiety or depression. When at risk mothers were asked who they go to for help with emotional problems more than 9/10 said their partner compared to about 50% who said their GP1. So the first person that’s likely to hear about a mum’s distress, sadness and anxiety is THE DAD. The first person who’s going to notice that she’s not sleeping enough, that she is not enjoying the new baby, that she’s not feeling confident to figure out what to do, is THE DAD.

Dad’s are in a position to suggest that talking to her GP might not be a bad idea. Or checking out the online support that’s available and free. The theme for the mental health services 2020 Perinatal Mental Health Week is “We’re here we’re listening”. Well that’s what dads do all the time. What the research underlines is that how the dad listens, and how he reacts will have a big impact on how the pregnancy and birth go2,3.

After the birth his support will influence mothers’ ability to cope with exhaustion and interact positively with their infant and not only reduce the likelihood of postnatal depression but assist in reducing its effects4,5,6.

The research also tells us that fathers are a major factor in a whole lot of key issues for mums with their new baby. For example, how mum manages breastfeeding and whether or not she sticks at it, whether she gives up smokes during pregnancy etc are all heavily influenced by dad’s comments, his reactions and the practical and emotional support he gives7,8 .

Recent evidence that side sleeping and taking action when the baby’s movements decrease in the last semester can reduce SIDS points to another area where dads are key even when they’re not the ones carrying the baby9.


REFERENCES

  1. Schmied et al. (2016). Antenatal psychosocial risk status and Australian women’s use of primary care and specialist mental health services in the year after birth: a prospective study. BMC women’s health, 16(1), 69
  2. Cheng, E. R., Rifas-Shiman, S. L., Perkins, M. E., Rich-Edwards, J. W., Gillman, M. W., Wright, R., & Taveras, E. M. (2016). The influence of antenatal partner support on pregnancy outcomes. Journal of Women’s Health, 25(7), 672-679.
  3. Stapleton, L. R. T., Schetter, C. D., Westling, E., Rini, C., Glynn, L. M., Hobel, C. J., & Sandman, C. A. (2012). Perceived partner support in pregnancy predicts lower maternal and infant distress. Journal of family psychology, 26(3), 453.
  4. Dennis, C. L., & Ross, L. (2006). Women’s perceptions of partner support and conflict in the development of postpartum depressive symptoms. Journal of advanced nursing, 56(6), 588-599.
  5. Gillis, A., & Roskam, I. (2019). Daily Exhaustion and Support in Parenting: Impact on the Quality of the Parent–Child Relationship. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(7), 2007-2016.
  6. Vakrat, A., Apter-Levy, Y., & Feldman, R. (2018). Sensitive fathering buffers the effects of chronic maternal depression on child psychopathology. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 49(5), 779-785.
  7. Mahesh, P. K. B., Gunathunga, M. W., Arnold, S. M., Jayasinghe, C., Pathirana, S., Makarim, M. F., … & Senanayake, S. J. (2018). Effectiveness of targeting fathers for breastfeeding promotion: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 1140.
  8. Duckworth, A. L., & Chertok, I. R. A. (2012). Review of perinatal partner-focused smoking cessation interventions. MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, 37(3), 174-181.
  9. See saferbaby.org.au