Perinatal depression is a complex mental health condition that typically impacts expectant and new mothers. However, with parenting roles ever-evolving, it should not be surprising that some studies have suggested that more than 10% of fathers also experience depression and anxiety during the perinatal period.
Although paternal perinatal depression (PPND) has received less attention than maternal perinatal mental health problems, they are significant enough to address. So, to coincide with Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness (PANDA) Week, Pharmacist and Founder/CEO of Ultra Nature shares his gender-neutral advice on understanding perinatal depression and anxiety, who it affects, and how to find help.
Types of perinatal depression
According to Dr Sam, perinatal depression encompasses a spectrum of mood disorders that affect patients during pregnancy and up to a year after childbirth. It can be profoundly distressing and is often misunderstood or overlooked. Therefore it is important to recognise the common types of conditions under this spectrum and the ways in which they present.
“Perinatal depression typically refers to both antenatal or prenatal depression and anxiety which occurs during pregnancy and can continue after childbirth. And postpartum depression and anxiety – conditions that emerge after childbirth, typically in the weeks or months following delivery. Symptoms may include persistent sadness, excessive worry, changes in sleep or appetite, fatigue, and a general sense of hopelessness, says Dr Sam.
“While it’s natural to experience moments of sadness or anxiety during and after pregnancy perinatal depression and anxiety involve symptoms that are more severe, persistent, and debilitating, he adds.
Why does perinatal depression affect women…. AND men?
Although it is more frequently associated with mothers, it’s important to recognise that perinatal depression can affect anyone, including fathers and adoptive parents.
“Perinatal depression is commonly referred to as a maternal mental health disorder. However, it is a complex condition that can impact both expectant and new mothers and fathers.
“While mothers experience the hormonal and emotional challenges of pregnancy and childbirth, fathers often encounter their unique set of stressors, including increased responsibilities and a shift in their roles, says Dr Sam
“Men can also experience perinatal depression and anxiety, which might manifest as heightened stress, feelings of helplessness, and changes in their emotional wellbeing, he adds.
Furthermore, “perinatal depression and anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or socioeconomic background, says Dr Sam.
How to treat perinatal depression
Perinatal depression and anxiety should not be ignored or underestimated, as they can have severe consequences for both the parent and their child. Effective treatment options are available, and seeking help is a critical step. According to Dr Sam, these may involve a combination of targeted mental health treatments and general lifestyle changes.
“Psychotherapy and counseling can help both mothers and fathers address their feelings and develop coping strategies. In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe new parents with antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.”
Dr Sam also suggests engaging in regular exercise, ensuring adequate sleep, and establishing strong social support networks – which can all contribute to improved mental health. “Communicating your needs with partners, family, and friends, is vital. Participating in support groups with others experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety can also be beneficial.”
Finally, Dr Sam highlights the importance of maintaining a balanced diet as certain nutrients may play a crucial role in mental health, and their deficiency can exacerbate these conditions.
“These include Vitamin D – which is essential for mood regulation. Folate (Vitamin B9) – a B vitamin that is vital for brain function. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – are associated with a reduced risk of depression and are crucial for brain development in infants. And iron – which can contribute to fatigue and depressive symptoms.”
Be sure to include foods in your diet that are rich in these vitamins and minerals. Or consider a supplement that may provide them, such as Ultra Nature’s Selancy Range. Or Sleep and Stress (“Particularly popular among men post conceptions – with potent natural calmatives, anxiolytics and adaptogens such as Ashwagandha KSM66, Piper Methysticum and California Poppy to name a few,” says Dr Sam). Which can support both men and women through conception, pregnancy, and birth.