Help for new dads, partners and families
Having a baby brings many changes and challenges not only for mums, but for dads, partners and existing children too.
Supporting a new mum with a mental health problem can be worrying and stressful. It’s important to acknowledge that fathers and partners may also have their own mental health problems.
- They may also need to provide additional support to older children to help them understand what is happening and why mum is not well
- We encourage partners and significant others to join a woman’s appointments, with her consent.
We also offer an individual appointment to partners/significant others, at their request.
In these appointments you can talk about:
- Your own wellbeing
- How best to support your partner/significant other
- How best to support other members of your family.
We can also provide you with information on support groups and advice on other types of support offered to a person in a supporting or caring role.
If you are worried about your partner’s mental health
If you are worried about your partner’s mental health in pregnancy or after birth, encourage her to talk to a health professional as soon as possible. This is important.
This could be her:
- Health visitor mental health team.
Contact our team
If your partner is already under our care and you think her mental health is much worse, let us know.
From Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, someone in the team will be here to answer the phone.
You can also email us at wlm-tr.PNMHEHHF@nhs.net.
Ways you can help
- Listen - allow her to talk about how she feels and do not judge
- Tell your partner it’s not her fault - mental health problems can happen to anyone
- Encourage her and tell her what’s going well
- Read about her mental health problem so you understand it
- Give practical support - for example, help with housework, cooking and night time feeds
- Do things together that you both enjoy - for example, go for a walk together.
Look after yourself
Caring for a mum with mental health problems can be very stressful. You need to take care of yourself too:
- Talk to friends, family or other dads/partners
- Ask family members for practical help
- Ask for some time off work
- Rest and sleep when you can
- Do not use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress
- Talk to the professionals involved and ask for more help if you need it.
Where you can find support
We can recommend the following resources for general advice and information about specific perinatal mental health problems.
Pregnancy, birth and beyond for dads and partners
A helpful web resource from the NHS for dads to be and partners.
Postnatal depression (PND) - information for carers
Useful information on PND from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for carers
Information on Perinatal OCD from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The Dad’s Matter website has some great content on getting support for your partner.
Action on Postpartum Psychosis
Find out about research into Postpartum Psychosis and peer support on the Action on Postpartum Psychosis website.
Birth Trauma Association
A charity that supports women who have suffered birth trauma. Find out more about how they can support women and their families on their website.
At least one in five men experience depression after becoming fathers. As well as the usual symptoms, it can make it difficult to bond with your baby.
Why new dads experience mental health problems
Many factors can affect dads and partners’ wellbeing and ability to cope.
Relationship difficulties can be an important factor. These can be recent or might have been going on for a long time. Having a baby can be a stressful time for your relationship. You will have less time alone together.
Other factors can include:
- Money worries
- Less time for exercise, hobbies and relaxation
- Lack of sleep
- Increased responsibility at home
- Concern about your partner if she has a mental health problem
- Previous depression or anxiety.
Ways to help yourself
There are ways to help yourself if you find you are feeling low, anxious, or struggling to bond with your baby.
- Open up about your feelings to a trusted friend or family member.
- Exercise - even if this is walking with your baby in a sling or a pram.
- See friends and family regularly, so you do not feel alone.
- Join a dads’ group so you can meet other new fathers/partners.
- Spend time with your baby: cuddle, change nappies, bath and play. Having a role in your baby’s care may help you feel closer to him or her.
- Try not to cope by using strategies such as working too many hours, avoiding coming home or drinking too much. These are likely to make you feel worse not better.
Get professional help
See your GP if self-help hasn’t worked or if your symptoms get worse. They can refer you for talking therapies or prescribe medication if needed.
Resources to help new dads and partners
The Fatherhood Institute has a vision of a society in which there’s a great dad for every child.
DaddiLife - place where dads can learn, grow and celebrate the life that is dad.
Dad Pad - An essential guide for new dads, developed with the NHS.
The National Childbirth Trust provide advice and a local parent peer network.
Parents often tell us they find it difficult to talk to their children about their mental health difficulties.
Some parents also worry about how their mental health might affect their children.
However, we know that if children are not told what is happening, they often fill in the blanks.
- Provides them with the facts
- Reduces the anxiety they feel because they are uncertain.
It is important to hold in mind your children’s ages when deciding how much information to give them about your mental health.
There are a few things you can do to help your children understand your difficulties and reduce any impact your mental health might have on them.
Honest communication is one of the best ways to address any confusion your children may have about your mental health.
Children have lots of parts to their lives including school, home, friends and hobbies. If you know how they are coping in each of these settings you will be able to deal with difficulties more quickly.
Encourage and support their experiences
You might feel able to help and support your child, you might also find it helpful to have someone else help you think about this:
- Find a way of creating a safe and quiet place at home. This can be helpful for school work and relaxing
- Talk to them about school and their work. Take an interest in what they enjoy and what they find more difficult.
Have a plan
Consistency is important for children.
If you do not have a partner or another family member who knows your child and their routine well, it can be helpful for you to write a plan with your children for times when you might be unwell or absent.
The plan could include your child’s:
• Weekly routine
• Likes and dislikes
• Who they can contact for help and support.
Make sure your child knows who to talk to if they are worried about your mental health. This can reduce the need for your child to take on too much responsibility when you are unwell.
The Mind guide to parenting with a mental health problem is a web-based guide that explains difficulties you may face as a parent with a mental health problem.
Some good books for children
- Why Are You So Sad: A Child’s Book about Parental Depression by Beth Andrews
- The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson
- The Wise Mouse by Virginia Ironside
The videos below help explain mental illness to children.
My mum’s got a dodgy brain
In this short film, children talk about their experience of having a parent with a mental illness. Your children might find it useful to watch and talk with you about it.