Pregnancy: emotional changes for men and women

Pregnancy is a powerful and life-changing experience for women and men. It can stir up some strong, deep and unexpected emotions and issues.

As a man, there might be days during your partner’s pregnancy when you feel flat, down or irritable. These kinds of changes are normal.

But emotional changes that last longer than two weeks and get in the way of your daily life could be depression. Depression during pregnancy is called antenatal depression. Depression after birth is postnatal depression.

Up to one in 10 men experiences antenatal or postnatal depression.

I’ve spoken to thousands of people on the helpline and in my clinical work, and there’s a common theme for women and men. It’s ‘I didn’t know I would be experiencing this emotional stuff as I learned about being a carer of a baby’.
– Belinda Horton, former CEO, Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA)

Signs of antenatal and postnatal depression in men

If you’re experiencing any of the changes below for more than two weeks, don’t struggle against them or ignore them. Get help. Speak with your partner, family and friends and see your GP.

Common physical signs might include:

  • tiredness
  • lack of appetite
  • trouble sleeping, or sleeping and waking at unusual times
  • weight loss or gain.

Changes in emotions and moods can also be signs of antenatal and postnatal depression. For example, you might feel:

  • sad
  • guilty or ashamed
  • cranky, anxious and angry
  • isolated or disconnected from your partner, friends or family
  • unable to enjoy things you used to find fun or pleasurable.

You might have changes in thinking. For example, you might:

  • be unable to concentrate or remember things
  • have trouble making decisions or doing everyday tasks
  • have thoughts of being overwhelmed, out of control or like you can’t cope
  • think about death or suicide.

You might also have changes in behaviour. For example, you might:

  • not be interested in sex
  • withdraw from your family or want to spend more time at work
  • use drugs or alcohol as a way of handling the depression.

Antenatal and postnatal depression have the same symptoms and are treated in the same way. It’s just the timing that’s different – antenatal depression comes before birth and postnatal depression comes after. You might hear these conditions referred to together as perinatal depression.

Getting help for antenatal or postnatal depression in men

If you think you might have depression, it’s important to get help early.

Here are things you can do to start the recovery process:

  • Talk with your partner, family and friends about what you’re going through.
  • Call PANDA on 1300 726 306 or MensLine on 1300 789 978.
  • Speak to your GP.
  • Go to your local community health centre.
  • Contact your local mental health services.

If you’re having thoughts about hurting yourself or your family, you should urgently speak to your GP or call Lifeline Australia on 131 114. If you believe that someone’s life is in immediate danger, call 000 or go to your local hospital’s emergency department.

Depression and your partner

Around 15% of women develop postnatal depression after the birth of their babies.

Dads whose partners have postnatal depression often find their partner withdrawing from love and affection – not just sex, but also from the friendship that comes in a relationship.

If your partner is struggling, or you notice that she’s experiencing the symptoms of antenatal or postnatal depression, encourage her to seek help. To start with, she could speak to her GP or child and family health nurse.

Your support will make a big difference to your partner and can help reduce her symptoms. Read more about how to care for a partner who has postnatal depression.