• Alyssa Berlin, PsyD

Paternal Mental Health

Postpartum depression is well known among those who work with new and expectant parents but what many don’t know is that it’s just one of many perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADS). There are many different ways that these mental health issues can present, but they affect male and female parents alike. The mainstream perinatal industry is set up to identify and address the mental health needs of new mothers. This is extremely important to address but the system often fails to recognize similar mental health issues for non-birthing partners and new fathers. There are a number of reasons this dynamic took shape and just as many reasons it needs to change.

Parents of all genders often reference their own upbringing when cultivating a parenting style. This creates an interesting dynamic for male parents in particular as older generations saw more traditional gender roles which often involved men leaving much of parenting to the women. Today, men are not only allowed but encouraged to engage with their children on a deeper emotional level as well as take part in the grittier aspects of parenting such as diaper changes, meal planning and prep, and laundry and cleaning. This new and more nuanced parenting dynamic is a positive step forward but can be difficult for men to adopt, without a modern paternal role model. In addition to a lack of modern parenting role models, studies show that men often have fewer and less satisfying friendships than women. Men struggling to create a comfortable role for themselves within their family unit are further hindered by the lack of a support system outside the home. Pregnant women are encouraged to join pregnancy support groups and mommy-and-me groups (gratefully evolving into parent-and-me groups) for after the baby is born. But men are often left to fend for themselves. For these reasons parenthood can be isolating for many new fathers. New mothers and birthing partners are commonly given mental health assessments at the hospital before bringing their new baby home, however the same cannot be said for new dads and non-birthing partners. Even in situations where labor has been traumatic and the new mother is screened for PTSD, the non-birthing partners