One out of 4 fathers experience symptoms of Post-Natal Depression (PND) during the 12 months following the birth of their child.  While most of them may not meet the full criteria for PND, many men report symptoms of depressed mood, low interest in their regular activities, feelings of worthlessness, loss of energy, and fears that their problems will be dismissed or they will be stigmatised in some way (e.g. seen as weak). While PND is more common in mothers (affecting about 15% of women with slightly higher rates for Maori women), often both partners are suffering some symptoms of depression and men often get missed.

Men in many cultures are taught to hide their vulnerability so as not to appear weak and ‘unmanly’ whereas women tend to be more comfortable expressing their more tender, vulnerable feelings.  Unfortunately, the stigma and myth of ‘manliness’ leaves many men with undiagnosed depressive symptoms and without permission to seek help.

Health professionals can help by looking for PND in both parents (including same-sex partners) and addressing the needs of both parents.  Men often respond to their depression by withdrawing and social isolating.  They are more likely to express their depression through anxious or aggressive behaviour or voice pessimistic thoughts.

So if the birth of a child is supposed to be so awesome why do so many parents get depressed?

Low mood is more common after the birth of a child and is thought to be due to a combination of factors which include the change in gender roles and return to more traditional patterns, that there is less time for uninterrupted couple time, the decline in disposable income, parenting being such a busy time, and the change to sex life whereby intimacy and frequency of sex decrease with 50% of women and 20% of men reporting a reduction in sexual interest in the year following the birth of a child.

If anyone you knows, seems to be needing help with depressive symptoms following the birth of their child, then you may like to contact Plunket NZ), your doctor, or make an appointment to see a counsellor or psychologist.  Any one of our clinical psychologists can help with PND.

Further information on this, including the Gottman scale for assessing post-natal depression in men, can be found at