NHS England’s New Maternal Mental Health Hubs – What about Dads?

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Birth, postnatal mental health issues, and child loss can affect both parents, so why are men being left out of the discussion? 

NHS England has announced that it is opening 26 new mental health “hubs” which will be dedicated to supporting new, expectant, and bereaved mothers.  It is merging both maternity care and psychological therapy which will be aimed directly at mothers.  Birth, postnatal mental health issues, and child loss can and does affect both parents, so why are men being left out of the discussion? 

Dr Giles Berrisford, the adviser for perinatal mental health, said that about a quarter of women experience psychological difficulties throughout pregnancy and up to two years after birth.

“Having a baby is a life-changing experience and no one should have to go through this without the help and support they need,” 

This is a life-changing experience not only for the mums but also for fathers as well.  While many people are aware of postnatal depression in women, it is less known that 1 in 10 new fathers will experience depression either during pregnancy and or after birth.  While female postnatal depression is often picked up on during hospital visits and checkups, there isn’t the same support network for dads.  

The pandemic has only made the situation worse with fathers not allowed to join their partners during appointments and scans causing isolation from the medical aspect of pregnancy.  As one Dad in the forum commented,

“it’s all too easy to forget that the birth of a child is an experience for both mum and dad.”

Whether this experience is good or bad, it has a large impact on both parents, and this needs to be remembered.  When making mental health hubs aimed at pregnancy, fathers need to be included as well.  

Male mental health is often overlooked, with three-quarters of all suicides in the UK being men.  Depression in fathers can be caused by a variety of different things, ranging from social, physical to emotional factors. 

These include

  • Feelings of isolation and a lack of support
  • Struggling to adjust to the newfound role
  • Loss of sleep
  • A traumatic birth experience
  • Bereavement and grief 
  • Believing that you don’t meet society’s expectations

With one of the key factors being a lack of social and emotional support, it is evident that dads need to have access to a pre and postnatal mental health ‘hub’ as well as women. 

How do you think new dads can be included in mental health conversations?

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