Can partners get perinatal mental health problems?
Doctors can only formally diagnose you with a perinatal mental health problem if you are pregnant or have given birth to a child in the past year.
But if your partner is pregnant or recently gave birth, you may also experience mental health problems during this time. For example, some studies show that partners can experience depression or anxiety around the time of their child’s birth.
If you think you’re experiencing a mental health problem, there is help and support available.
This page covers:
- Why might partners experience mental health problems?
- Signs and symptoms of mental health problems
- Support for partners
“Overall it was a horrific time in our lives, for a total of around 18 months from falling pregnant to coming out the other side, which really put a massive strain on our relationship. Looking back, I’m not sure how we managed to get through it all.”
Why might partners experience mental health problems?
There are many reasons that you might experience mental health problems while your partner is pregnant or after they give birth.
But these problems are more likely if you:
- don’t have good support networks in place
- are struggling with other stressful life events like moving house, losing your job or a bereavement
- have poor living conditions or are living in poverty
- experienced abuse in your childhood.
You might also be coping with:
- extra responsibilities around the house
- financial pressures
- a changing relationship with your partner
- lack of sleep
- looking after several children.
Your partner may also experience mental health problems during their pregnancy or after giving birth. This can make it even harder for you to cope with the normal struggles of becoming a parent.
Depression as a new dad
“I was barely even past a week into my journey as a father and I was already on medication and signed off work.”
Signs and symptoms of mental health problems
Everybody reacts to becoming a parent in different ways. But there are some common signs that you may be experiencing a mental health problem. These include:
- fear, confusion, helplessness and uncertainty about the future
- guilt, for example because you weren’t the person who had to give birth
- withdrawal from family life, work and social situations
- frustration, irritability, cynicism and anger
- hostility or indifference to your partner
- hostility or indifference to your baby
- using more alcohol or recreational drugs than usual
- finding it hard to sleep, even when you have the chance
- physical symptoms like indigestion, changes in appetite and weight, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, toothaches and nausea.
If you think you’re experiencing mental health problems, it is possible to manage these feelings with the right support.
Support for partners
There are a few different ways that you can get support for your mental health:
Speak to your doctor about your mental health
You can speak to your doctor any time you experience mental health problems. This includes during the time that your partner is pregnant or after your child is born.
Your doctor can refer you to local support services or talking therapies. They can also prescribe you medication for your mental health.
Contact a specialist organisation
There are organisations who specialise in helping and supporting partners during this time:
- Rainbow families of Hong Kong offers support for LGBTQ + parents.
See our useful contacts page for other organisations who may be able to help.
There are a few different ways that you can look after your own mental health if you feel like you are struggling. See our page on ways to look after your mental health when becoming a parent for ideas that may help.
We also have pages about different types of mental health problems that you may experience. These pages include specific self-care tips and treatment and support options.