Pre and postnatal depression
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Acacia Family Support - Ante and postnatal depression support services

Welcome To Acacia Dads

Having a baby can be a daunting prospect and can often turn out to be a time of great challenge and extreme stress for both mum and dad.  This pressure along with a sense of struggling to navigate the unknown can sometimes become overwhelming. If you are feeling that you’re struggling to cope, you are not alone.  It might surprise you to know that one in 10 new dads struggle with their mental health during this period. We have some videos of other dads telling their stories at the bottom of the page.

We hope that in these pages you will find the information you need to help you navigate your journey to better mental wellbeing.  Please feel free to browse the information, watch the video’s and use the links to help begin your journey.  I must warn you though that there will be a lot of scrolling involved!  

If your wife/partner develops a perinatal mental health problem then you are likely to be under considerable stress and are more likely to go on to develop one yourself.  However, even without maternal mental health problems in a wife/partner, you have a higher risk of developing depression in the first year of parenthood than similarly aged people who aren’t new parents. Recent research reveals that up to one in 10 dads/partners will develop postnatal illnesses regardless of whether their partner develops it or not and this includes not just depression/anxiety but also other perinatal conditions like OCD traits and post-traumatic stress disorder relating to the birth. You owe it to yourself and to your family to get help if you find you are struggling and recognise any of the symptoms. 

Many partners find it hard to talk about such feelings and bottle them up for quite a long period of time. They may then go on to express their feelings with irritability and short temper to those around them like family, friends and work colleagues. Some people may drink more alcohol or take other drugs in an attempt to deal with these feelings. They may also seek out increasingly risky activities. The combination of these mean that they are less likely to be seen as depressed by those around them and are less likely to seek appropriate help and treatment in dealing with their depression/anxiety.

Remember, depression/anxiety and other mental health problems are not a sign of weakness any more than a physical health problem is. They are a treatable health condition and the sooner you get help, the sooner things will start to get better.


A Very Serious Bit...  

We have brought these self help resources together to help make your first steps easier for you.  We hope that you will find these Videos and links really helpful.  However, 
please remember that the use of these resources are not intended to be a substitute for a consultation with a healthcare provider/professional.  We recommend that you contact a healthcare professional if you are concerned about your health.  Also, please check out the information at the bottom of the page for help if you or your partner are feeling really unwell at the moment.

We want to ensure that these pages are helpful to as many people as possible.  Please feel free to make suggestions and/or if you experience any broken links please let us know by using the contact us box. 

Q & A



Maternal/paternal mental health problems, or perinatal mental health problems as they're often called, are more common than you think. In fact one in 5 new mums experience them and up to one in 10 new dads or partners. These mental health problems can range from anxiety, low mood and depression to more severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and psychosis. Some will have suffered mental health problems before but, for others, symptoms are new and frightening for the whole family.

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problems during pregnancy and new parenthood, with around 12% of women and 6% of men experiencing depression and 13% of women or 6.5% men experiencing anxiety at some point; many will experience both. People who are experiencing depression/anxiety have a number of changes to their mood, their thinking, their behaviour and their bodily functioning which persist for weeks or months and which can lead to major disruption in their lives.

The other mental health problems like panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, postpartum psychosis, exacerbation of eating disorders and tokophobia (fear of giving birth) are less common but still account for up to 8% of all new mums and can also affect their partners. It is important to remember that all of these problems, even the most severe, are usually temporary with the right treatment and support.

The mums and dads who experience perinatal mental health problems cannot control their symptoms on their own. It is not their choice and will require love, patience, understanding and support to get them through this. The symptoms may lead to poor bonding with the baby and difficulties with breastfeeding for the mum (which can itself lead to distress, anxiety and low mood).

Good parental mental health is very important for the the development of the baby before and after birth. This makes it really important to recognise the problem quickly, to talk about it, and to get help. This is really important for partners too. If your wife or partner is experiencing maternal mental health problems you have a one in 2 chance of developing your own and you can still develop your own even when your partner doesn't. Having a baby is a highly stressful time, fuelled by sleep deprivation and the huge increase in responsibility that comes with a baby. Nothing quite prepares you for this and when, on top of all this, your partner becomes ill, it puts you at high risk of developing a mood disorder yourself.

The most common symptoms can include persistent feelings of sadness and low mood, poor concentration, feeling unable to cope, loss of interest in sex, tiredness, avoiding contact with people, change in appetite, loss of pleasure in normally enjoyed activities, unable to get out of bed, thoughts of suicide and/or harming self and/or the baby.

Anxiety symptoms can also include feeling persistently afraid, worried, nervous, on edge, detached, panicky. You may also find it hard to learn and apply the new skills and tasks of fatherhood and get into an effective routine, start to feel that the family would be better off without you, have frequent worries about the health and welfare of your partner and/or the baby, have persistent, intrusive and frightening thoughts that you or they might harm baby constantly think things like, "I'm a terrible father/parent/partner" or "They're going to take my baby away"

You are unlikely to experience all of the symptoms at the same time but if you recognise yourself amongst them please don't ignore it. This Q&A section will help give you some basic advice about what to do and the links on this page offer free services of who can help.

Anybody can get mental health problems when having a baby, at any time of life, irrespective of gender, age, culture or social background. It happens to men as well as women and is really common. It's important to keep in mind that this is not a sign of a 'weak character' or other inadequacy. Many gifted, successful and powerful people have experienced mental health problems in their lives. Additional risk factors include: if a close relative has experienced mental health problems, psychological make up and personality, major life events, physical illnesses, isolation, relationship breakdown, money worries.

In addition to the normal worries that many new parents have to deal with, it can feel that your wife or partner has now become a different person to the one you once knew. You may feel emotionally neglected and physically rejected. Your partner may have become irritable, hostile and abusive to you at times. Whatever you try nothing you do seems to be right.

This change in your relationship and family dynamics which will normally include a change in pecking order all adds to the pressure. You're also likely to be experiencing quite a bit of sleep disturbance and changes in your normal routine in the early weeks and months. You may be spending time at work or elsewhere pre-occupied and worrying about how things are at home. On the other hand work might be a welcome refuge from home, so you try and spend more time there. This in itself may give you conflict and guilt over where your loyalties should lie.

You may feel very isolated and alone with these concerns, not knowing who you can talk to about them and whether they're normal. One of the worst fears is often whether you and/or your partner will ever be able to return to the way you were before, or is this the way it will always be from now on?

There are many types of perinatal mental health problems and most of them include some aspect of depression and/or anxiety. Most of them can affect both parents.

Postpartum Psychosis is a rare but serious and potentially life threatening mental health issue. It takes the form of severe depression or mania or both. For the few women who experience postpartum psychosis, it occurs in the first 3 months after birth, usually within the first 2 weeks and develops rapidly.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events such as traumatic labour/birth. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks and may experience feelings of isolation, anger, frustration, disappointment, irritability and guilt.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder which causes people to experience obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive behaviours. Obsessions are overwhelming unwanted thoughts which cause anxiety, disgust or unease and lead to the need to carry out activities usually repetitively in an attempt to temporarily relieve the distressing feelings of the obsessive thoughts.

Tokophobia is a specific phobia of childbirth ie an overwhelming, debilitating fear of childbirth, which can be so intense that pregnancy and/or childbirth is avoided.

Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of mood disorder which is usually accompanied by increased anxiety. It can range from mild to severe and occur any time from pregnancy up to 2 years following birth. Sometimes anxiety can be the dominant symptom.

Pre/postnatal depression/anxiety (PND) is the most common perinatal mental health problem and accounts for almost two-thirds of all recorded cases of perinatal problems. In addition many cases of PND/anxiety go undiagnosed as dads tend to try and just press on through! PND is a depressive illness which develops in mothers and partners before or after childbirth. Anxiety is almost always a component of PND and sometimes the anxiety is the dominant symptom. In some parents it happens fairly suddenly and usually within a few weeks after giving birth. They often describe it as "like a switch has been turned off." In others it develops gradually over a period of weeks and may not be noticed by those around them for quite some time. It can occur at any time in the first year or so and in some parents it can actually start during pregnancy.

Postnatal depression may last for weeks or months and in some it may last into the child's second year if not detected and treated adequately. The symptoms a parent will experience are very much the same as those of depression generally. The important difference with postnatal depression is that there is a new and dependant baby in the mix. Also, postnatal depression develops at a time when both parents usually anticipate pleasure and fulfilment in the experience of parenthood and this can add additional pressure to ignore and play the symptoms down and pretend everything is alright.

The good news is that perinatal mental health problems can be treated. Most mums and dads make a full recovery and, as with all health conditions, the sooner they are recognised, and appropriate help is sought, the better.

At the milder end of the scale, measures aimed at giving mums and dads some space to talk about their feelings along with increasing practical and social support are helpful. This can be achieved through enlisting the help of family and friends to relieve some of the practical load or to spend time providing a non-judgemental listening ear and encouragement. It is worth googling your local voluntary organisations and Home-Start as these can play very useful roles in recovery. You can also use the Hearts and Minds locator Map further down the page to search for local groups. Just enter your postcode.

Further on up the scale antidepressants or other medications are often useful and sometimes more specialist psychological help such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These can usually be arranged through the GP (or local IAPT service) along with more specialist support for those with higher needs.

For the most poorly parents treatment may include referral to the community specialist perinatal team and/or to the Mother and Baby Unit where they can receive more intensive specialist support for themselves and baby. Referrals can be made by your Midwife, Health Visitor or GP.

A usual episode of depression/anxiety will generally resolve within a matter of weeks or months. Recovery rarely follows a smooth path and typically involves ups and downs. The best advice is to take it one day at a time.

More severe mental health problems may vary in duration but the sooner help is sought, and begins, the sooner things will start to improve.

The first thing to say is that this advice may be really challenging for you right now, especially if you are experiencing your own struggles and perinatal mental health problems. Please remember that this advice is not meant to be another way of measuring and judging yourself about whether you're measuring up! This season will pass and it's great you've taken the first step to get a bit more information on how you can help yourself and your partner. Just remember to take it easy on yourself and not to set the bar too high during this difficult time.

The first step is to recognise and acknowledge that your wife or partner is ill right now. Talk to them about it and find out more about postnatal depression and other maternal mental health problems for yourself. Use the links on this website and watch some of the videos of other mums who have been through it.

Listen to them and take their worrying thoughts seriously. They may seem trivial and unwarranted to you, but to them they're very serious and real.

Support your partner to seek help. The GP, Midwife and Health Visitor are key people to speak to. If they have already sought help then support them in that and involve yourself in the support they are offered.

Try not to judge or criticise. They're probably doing a lot of that themselves right now. Try not to retaliate in kind when they're irritable and snappy with you. This can be really challenging but remind yourself that it isn't the real person behaving like that.

Reassure your partner that you are there for them and that things will improve in time. Show love and affection but try to avoid overly sexual demands. Your wife/partner won't be ready for that for a while yet Involve yourself as much as you can with supporting the parenting and housework.

In addition to supporting your wife/partner it's very important that you recognise your own needs and take care of your own health. You are not being selfish in doing this. It will be impossible for you to look after your partner and the baby if you are struggling yourself. And, did I mention that around 50% of dads whose wife has perinatal mental health problems will develop their own?! This is really common.

Ways of supporting your own mental health:

Try to do some regular exercise and relaxation activities – as much as time will allow right now. After all a baby gives you a good reason for a walk around your local park, which will also give you and/or your wife/partner some much needed time to yourselves.

It might sound simple but it's so important to maintain a healthy (ish) diet and eat regularly - don't skip breakfast! Your brain and your body needs energy if you want it to function well and cope with increased stress.

Find someone to confide in about it. A close friend or family member perhaps. If you live in Birmingham, Acacia provides such a service. If you live elsewhere please use the links on this page to access national support services or visit the Hearts and Minds Map to see what's available locally.

If you suspect that you may be becoming overly anxious or depressed then it's very important that you seek appropriate advice for yourself sooner rather than later. Speak to your GP. Be totally honest about how you are feeling. You won't be saying anything that they haven't heard before and the sooner you can get some help the sooner you can start the journey back to wellness.

Most importantly don't try and sweep it under the carpet and don't be tempted to try to fix it yourself by drinking more alcohol or taking other recreational drugs. This will not help the situation in the long term.

And finally, please don't put it off any longer to get the ball rolling. You owe it to yourself, your wife/partner, and your new baby to ensure that you're well and at your best right now. If you feel like you are struggling check out what's available.

Local Birmingham Based Support
Acacia Dads   If you live in Birmingham, Acacia can offer you a range of support. We are a charity based in Birmingham and we provide telephone, individual face-to-face and group support to families affected by postnatal depression and/or anxiety. Acacia provides a free support service for dads and partners who are affected by maternal mental health problems in a wife/partner or for themselves. Ring us today on 0121 301 5990 or click here to refer yourself to our service.

Our Dads PND Survival Guide and General Perinatal Mental Health Survival Guide for Partners can be downloaded by clicking on the links below.
Local Support Groups and Services Elsewhere in the Country

If you live outside of Birmingham please click here to go to the Hearts and Minds map of local support groups around the country.  All you need to do is put in your postcode and the map will show you what's available locally to you.
National Mental Health Support Available Wherever You Are
click on the red links

Dads Matter UK
 provide support for dads worried about or suffering from Depression, Anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) offer support to any man who is down or in crisis online, over the phone on 0800 58 58 58, or on webchat.

OCD Action provide support and information to anybody affected by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and work to raise awareness of the disorder amongst the public and front-line healthcare workers. 

PANDAS is a community offering peer-to-peer perinatal mental health support for both parents, using telephone, social media and email.

From Dads to Dads.  Real life experiences and real life useful facts.  Information dads want laid out simply by experts in that field and information-packed articles by dads for dads sharing their experiences to provide information about pregnancy, birth and becoming a dad.

MIND One dad tells his story, accompanied with links to more information and advice

PND Daddies The PND Daddy runs a Twitter chat for dads who suffer with PND and need support. Join in on Tuesdays 8-9pm using #PNDDaddies.

Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Shout exists to provide support to anyone, anywhere and at any time who may be experiencing a challenging time with their mental health.  Just text SHOUT to 85258.  The text is free and anonymous on all major UK networks.


Additional Local Services in Other Areas
Click on the red links

Stockton on Tees
Daddy and me messy play Facebook Page
Sale Trafford   Daddy and Me Facebook Page
Suffolk Epic dads www.epicdad.co.uk  
Dudley New Baby Network
Leeds Leeds dads www.leedsdads.org
Scotland Fathers Network Promoting the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of fathers in Scotland through the provision of support to men in all aspects of their role as fathers and to raise awareness and increase understanding of the importance of fathers in child development and parenting.
South WestDads in Mind - We offer both group and one to one support to dads supporting their partners with mental health during pregnancy and after birth and/or experiencing depression/anxiety related to their own new role as a parent.
Covering Bristol, South Gloucester, North Somerset, Bath & North East Somerset and Torbay & the South Hampshire.

Country Wide  Search the Hearts and Minds Map for services near you.


Self Help Resources and Guides
Click on the red links

Mind - Better Mental Health for Fathers  
A really great resource for better mental health for new dads, partners and non-birthing parents - please download by clicking link.  This booklet and accompanying Wellbeing Skills aims to help you navigate the early years as a new dad or co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.

Wellbeing Skills for New Parents
 This booklet and accompanying Better Mental Health aim to help you navigate the early years as a new dad or co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.

Self Help Leaflets
 covering a full range of mental health problems produced by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Living Life to the Full  The most recommended online courses covering low mood, stress and resiliency. Work out why you feel as you do, how to tackle problems, build confidence, get going again, feel happier, stay calm, tackle upsetting thinking and more. Courses are free for individuals.

APP guide for Partners A postpartum psychosis Insider Guide for Partners created with the help of dads who have been through postpartum psychosis.

NCT A series of useful articles for new dads and new dads to be providing advice and information including mental health.

PANDAS Dads - Closed Facebook Group

Fathers Mental Health & Covid
 booklet     
A free booklet developed by 'Alright Mate'  with contributions from Acacia dads and others.  Over the national ‘lockdown’ of summer 2020, 16 individuals were invited to share their thoughts and experiences around the impact of ‘lockdown’ on their mental health as fathers. This book contains transcribed excerpts from these conversations along with some guided self help questions.

Tommy’s - providing support before, during and after pregnancy, including after loss and pregnancy planning for women with mental health illness or previous experience of trauma or loss.

Other Types of National Support Services for Dads Which Can Be Accessed Anywhere in the Country
Click on the red links

Mind-Better Mental Health for Fathers  - 
A really great resource for better mental health for new dads partners & non-birthing parents - please download by clicking link.  This booklet and accompanying Wellbeing Skills aims to help you navigate the early years as a new dad or co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.

Wellbeing Skills for New Parents   
 This booklet and accompanying Better mental health aim to help you navigate the early years as a new dad or co-parent, maintain good mental wellbeing for yourself and support your new family.

Self Help Leaflets
 covering a full range of mental health problems produced by Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

Living Life to the Full  The most recommended online courses covering low mood, stress and resiliency. Work out why you feel as you do, how to tackle problems, build confidence, get going again, feel happier, stay calm, tackle upsetting thinking and more. Courses are free for individuals.

APP Guide for Partners A postpartum psychosis Insider Guide for Partners created with the help of dads who have been through postpartum psychosis.

NCT A series of useful articles for new dads and new dads to be providing advice and information including mental health

PANDAS Dads - Closed Facebook Group

Child Bereavement UK helpline: 0800 02 888.  We support many parents who are pregnant again after the death of their baby and we know it can bring up a range of feelings from hope, to guilt and fear. It can be helpful for you to talk to someone outside your own family or social group to help you not only cope with your own feelings, but those of others around you too.


When Your Baby Won't Stop Crying
If you are a parent with a young baby that won't stop crying please watch this video. It is from the perspective of the dad and shows how to use the ICON resources. If you need any further support please go to www.iconcope.org or click on the free leaflets  below.

click here to watch the short video
Instagram
Instagram pages worth a follow:

@P_m_h_support
@fathers_mentalhealth
@beyond_birth_guide
@bestbeginningscharity
@dadafofficial @the.dad.vibes
@mhsupport4dads @pandas_uk
@dadpaduk
@thedaddysleepconsultant
@daddies_hub
@paternalvoices
@runtellmom
@parentalmentalhealth
@theparenteducationcompany
@therapy4dads


Dads' Stories & Other Videos


Difficulties for Dads
Men's Depression and Recognising Symptoms
Finding it Hard to Cope - Animation
Mark and Michelle's Story
Lee's Story
The Importance of New Father's Mental Health
Struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
We Need To Change the Conversation About Fathers
Still Face With Dads
When A Parent Has Mental Illness
Please remember that Acacia is not a crisis service and if you are feeling really unwell with your mental health and are concerned you must contact your GP or mental health professional as soon as possible.   If you feel like you are suffering a mental health crisis: 
  • In a life-threatening situation call 999.
  • In Birmingham and Solihull you can ring 0121 262 3555 to access the new 24/7 NHS urgent mental health helpline for all ages.  You can use this helpline to get expert advice and assessment for children and adults and you can call for yourself or on behalf of someone else.
  • If you live outside Birmingham the link is here to find your local urgent helpline. Just enter your postcode and it then gives you the right phone number.    
  • You can also call 111 or request an urgent GP appointment.
  • Shout 85258 is a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Just text SHOUT to 85258.  The text is free and anonymous on all major UK networks.
  • Alternatively, in Birmingham and Solihull please contact your mental health crisis team:
                For Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT - 25yrs and over) call 0121 301 5500.
                For Forward Thinking Birmingham (24 yrs and younger) 0300 300 0099.

  • and if you have a Midwife and/or Health Visitor contact them as a matter of urgency.

If you live in Birmingham and need help?



Need Help? If you need help or support or have any questions please call.
0121 301 5990
or click here to email us

If you live outside of Birmingham and need help?



View the website If you need help or support please visit the Hearts and Minds website.