Becoming a parent is a joyous occasion filled with anticipation and happiness. However, when a baby is born prematurely, it can bring about unexpected challenges and stress, especially for the fathers.
A recent study involving the Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University followed the journey of 100 fathers of babies born before 30 weeks’ gestation1. The study found that almost one in five fathers experienced high depressive symptoms, and approximately half of all fathers experienced moderate anxiety symptoms that persisted throughout the first year of their baby’s life1.
These findings highlight the mental health challenges that fathers of preterm babies face. The pressures and responsibilities that come with having a baby born very prematurely can be daunting. Fathers often find themselves juggling concerns about their baby’s health, managing family responsibilities, and work activities1.
Despite these challenges, the study also found that the experience of more severe mental health symptoms had little effect on fathers’ parenting behaviours with their baby at 12 months1. This is encouraging news for fathers suffering from mental health difficulties. It shows their resilience and ability to adapt to challenging situations for the sake of their children.
However, it’s important to note that these relationships are complex and further research is needed to better understand the experiences of fathers following very premature birth1. The high rates of fathers reporting persistent mental health difficulties in this study is concerning and highlights the need to include fathers in ongoing mental health screening and support following very premature birth1.
In conclusion, while becoming a father to a preterm baby can bring about extra pressures and responsibilities, it’s crucial to remember that help is available. Mental health professionals can provide support and strategies to manage stress and anxiety.
Remember, it’s okay to reach out for help. You’re not alone in this journey.