Becoming a new parent can be emotional. Feelings of happiness and joy may be mixed with sadness, irritability, and fear. For new mothers, this is known as the “Baby Blues”, and tends to be short-lived. But for some mothers more severe feelings of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness are experienced. This is called postpartum depression (PPD), and around 8-12% of moms are affected.

Although we commonly only link PPD to new mothers, the reality is that men can suffer from PPD too. It has been estimated that 10.4% of new fathers will experience paternal PPD, which is a similar rate to women. Little research has been done on paternal PPD, and even less supports are in place for new dads.

A new scoping review out of MHR looks at the current mental health literature on paternal PPD experiences to help understand the needs of first-time fathers. Sheena Kumar, lead author on “Promoting Postpartum Mental Health in Fathers: Recommendations for Nurse Practitioners”, explains how the review can help guide nurse practitioners in better supporting new dads, while offering recommendations for post-natal programs. Recently, Sheena took some time to answer a few questions about the findings of her latest publication.

ER: Prior to reading this paper, I had not heard much about paternal PPD. Can you tell me why this area of research is becoming more important in recent years?

SK: With new fathers becoming more involved in the day-to-day caring of their infants, it is important to understand how the transition into fatherhood can affect their mental health. Knowledge and research gained in this area can help healthcare professionals, including nurse practitioners, to better screen for paternal PPD and effectively manage and support new fathers.

ER: What are some common experiences men have when becoming a father for the first time and how do they relate to paternal PPD?

SK: In relation to PPD, there were many common experiences shared by new fathers. New emotions and learning what their role is as a new father, along with balancing work-life demands and marital changes and challenges, were found to be factors. Fathers experienced barriers to infant care involvement and with a lack of father-specific programs and resources, less support and help for fathers with paternal PPD was seen.

ER: You mention that men have some specific learning needs when becoming first-time fathers, can you explain what types of support programs were found to be the most preferred?

SK: New fathers stated that it would have been helpful to know more about their new role as a father, infant care, and potential relationship changes with their partners. Information provided through digital media, internet, father-targeted sessions, and learning from experienced parents were suggestions that fathers made. Fathers also felt that the flexibility of using digital media and the internet to access information was very valuable. In group settings, an all-father setting helped to reduce social isolation and allowed for open discussions between men.

ER: Going forward, what types of roles do you feel nurse practitioners can play in supporting new dads with PPD?

SK: Nurse practitioners can be advocates, educators and supporters for new dads with PPD. They can lobby for father-focused post-partum programs, assess learning gaps and provide knowledge, connect new fathers to resources, and offer ongoing support.