Irish dads suffering from the baby blues are often side-lined by health care professionals new research reveals
Fathers struggling to cope after the birth of a new baby receive little support from health professionals and those close to them, new research has revealed.
A new study has found that while 10pc of men suffer from post-natal depression after welcoming a new baby, they do not receive the same support from their peers as new mothers do.
Researchers in Oxford University’s experimental psychology department found that a lack of bonding time between babies and fathers can contribute to depression in new dads.
The study found that many new mothers are guilty of ‘maternal gate-keeping’ and subconsciously limit the amount of time for dads to bond with their new child.
Dr Anna Machin interviewed 15 fathers over a period of eight months after the birth of a baby and found that although many were optimistic in the first month, more than one third displayed symptoms of depression after six months.
“There is increasing evidence that fathers experience symptoms of post natal depression. It’s definitely a real phenomenon,” she said.
“With fathers who want to be involved with their children, there is a tension between their need to provide and the wish to be at home. Having a baby can also put a strain on marital relationships, especially if the couple are not working as a team.
“And women can sometimes be guilty of maternal gatekeeping whereby they see themselves as the primary carer. They do not empower the father to take control of caring for the baby.”
The scientist also found that men take longer to bond with children than women as they do not have a ‘biochemical head-start’ of pregnancy and breastfeeding.
“The dads in the study, whatever their intentions about sharing roles with their partners found that they were ending up in quite traditional structures where mother raised the child and father worked to support them.
“Many commented that the attitude of wider society relegated them to the role of supporter rather than parent. They can feel guilt and disappointment when the reality of their situation sinks in and they are still the secondary carer,” said Dr. Machin.
The 15 fathers involved in this study were all professionals in stable relationships, but did not receive the support of their colleagues or health care workers when they presented with symptoms of depression.
“The needs of fathers are not being met. In some cases this has had adverse effects on dads’ wellbeing,” she said.