This is the main reason why new fathers experience postnatal depression

It may go unnoticed that a new father is struggling with depression until he begins to appear on edge or showing mood swings. Photo: Getty

Postnatal depression is more common in men who are insecure in their relationship with their partner, according to a new study.

People tend to think of perinatal depression – experienced during and after pregnancy – as a problem suffered solely by new mothers.

But according to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), about one in 20 men experience depression during pregnancy (antenatal) and up to one in 10 new fathers struggle with depression (postnatal).

Moreover, researchers from Lund University in Sweden say that more than one in five new fathers experience “troublesome” depressive symptoms.

These can include persistent, generalised worry (often focused on fears
for the health or wellbeing of the baby), abrupt mood swings and appearing nervous or panicky.

The new study led by Elia Psouni, registered psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Lund, investigated the reasons behind the fathers’ depressive symptoms.

She found that “affected men” often have a negative view of themselves and are worried about being inadequate in their intimate relationships.

Dr Psouni suggests these concerns may be based on childhood experiences with their parents.

“Having a negative view of oneself, one’s own characteristics and abilities, while valuing other people highly often leads to a constant worry about not being good enough, about disappointing others and – potentially – them,” Dr Psouni said.

The study also attempted to determine what specific aspect of low self-esteem in intimate relationships triggered the depression.

Most often, it was stress and fear related to not being “good enough” as a parent.

“Low self-confidence in close relationships seems to trigger parental stress, which in turn triggers the symptoms of depression,” Dr Psouni said.

Dr Psouni and her colleagues are now undertaking a long-term project that will monitor families over time to “generate knowledge about the wellbeing and development of children and parents in various family constellations”.

Beyond Blue has published a guide to emotional health and wellbeing for new fathers, partners and other carers. It can be downloaded here.

If you or someone you know is struggling, contact Mens Line on 1300 78 99 78 or online.