Non-Birthing Parent’s Mental Health

Non-Birthing Parent’s Mental Health

Jordan Yost NCC, LPC-S, PMH-C

Perinatal Mental Health trained clinician at the Golden Wellness Center

At GWC, we focus on the entire family system. Much of our society focuses on the health and wellness of the baby. However, the mental health and well-being of the parents must remain in the forefront of our minds. In this article, we will focus on non-birthing parents in the Perinatal period. The Perinatal period is defined as the time of conception through a year after birth. This time is especially challenging for birthing parents in many ways, oftentimes characterized by a struggle to conceive, hormonal and mood changes, traumatic births and so much more. In this article, I honor those who stand by their sides as a non-birthing parent (father, parent or partner). Much of the research given in this article focuses on ‘father,’ and more research is needed on non-birthing parents of all genders. For the purpose of accurately relaying research done, I will use the term ‘fathers’ and ‘paternal.’ However, note that those who identify as non-binary and do not identify as fathers may also fall into these statistics, with rates much higher than what has been researched.

Saying this, the rates of declining mental health in new parenthood for non-birthing parents is alarming. Research shows that at least 1 in 10 fathers suffer from Postnatal Depression (PND). Fathers tend to be diagnosed with Clinical depression after the perinatal period and would benefit from being given the EPDS (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale) screening tool too, as many birthing parents are screened once or never at all at their child’s primary care check ups. The rate of suicide among men aged 30 to 44 years increases around of time of becoming a father. Fathers also tend to suffer in silence and often use negative coping methods such as alcohol and drugs which can lead to anger and violence.

Additionally, this rate of depression increases for us all during specific seasons, such as fall and winter, as we spend less time outside and experience decreased Vitamin D exposure and exercise. This time can be especially difficult for males and non-birthing parents who have, culturally, not been given the opportunity to express their feelings, needs or struggles openly. Non-birthing parents are the main source of support for the birthing parent and infant/children at this time of early infancy. Given the lack of community support during this transformative time for birthing parents, we can only imagine the lack of support for non-birthing parents who often feel the pressure of failing to live up to expectations to care for their entire family in various capacities. Fathers can suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when they witness their loved one going through a difficult birth and feel hopelessness. Additionally and unfortunately, if only the father experiences mental illness, this puts a strain on the mother’s mental health and can lead to both partners becoming unwell, which then has adverse effects on the children. Just as a birthing parent’s mental health can deeply impact the child’s, a non-birthing parent who is unwell is less likely to bond with their child(ren). Lastly, fathers who have conditions such as ADHD, Asperger’s and Autism will struggle more in the labor room with their partners.

All of this research proves just how impactful the non-birthing parent’s mental health can be on their entire family system. It will serve our community as a whole to find a non-birthing parent or father, new or seasoned, and encourage them to reach out to a mental health professional in their area. If you are a non-birthing parent or father, the Golden Wellness Center provides perinatal mental health support through individual counseling as well as our Parenting Group every other Wednesday from 10-12pm. If you identify as a birthing parent, non-birthing parent, father, parent, mother or caregiver, I encourage you to create a community of support around you with our Perinatal Support Group, also every other Wednesday from 10-12pm. Each of these groups will be held virtually, with options for in person groups each season. We also offer individual and group Ketamine sessions with our KAP Certified Clinician and Licensed Professional Counselor, Gianna Gariglietti. Ketamine is most commonly used for people with depression and has been shown to be effective in treating trauma, PTSD, anxiety, OCD, chronic pain, addictions and more.

Let us create a community that extends healing to everyone, as what is helpful to our neighbor is helpful to us all.

‘In life, there are seasons of giving and receiving. As a new parent, you are in the season of receiving.’ Joanna Cole, Postpartum Support International Curriculum Manager

1 in 5-7 women are affected by Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
1 in 10 males are affected by Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders
Lesbian, bisexual, queer and transgender parents experience higher anxiety (up to 3x) and depression rates overall and have been severely underrepresented in research studies

Emergency Support for new parents:
Postpartum Support International (PSI) Helpline: 1-800-944-4773
TEXT “HELP” to 800-944-4773
National Maternal Mental Health Hotline: 1-833-943-5746 (call or text)
Information and research gathered from:
https://www.postpartum.net/news/dads-for-world-maternal-mental-health-day/

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