The Stress Expectant and New Fathers FeelKatlyn Joy | 1, March 2014
Fathers' roles are changing, and with those changes comes new stress. Gone are the days where an expectant dad sat in a waiting room, nervously awaiting word of the baby's birth. Today's dad is labor partner and coach, diaper-changing, baby-wearing, and full time on the job with family.
However, it is just as important for baby's well-being for dads to handle their stress in healthy ways. A study published in January 2013 in Pediatrics, followed 31,000 Norwegian families for 36 months. The study found that between 17 and 18 weeks, 3 percent of dads reported high levels of psychological distress. The researchers discovered a strong correlation between a father's distress and emotional, behavioral and cognitive issues in their children at age three.
What is not clear is whether the link is genetic, or if the father's level of stress may impact the mother's emotional and mental health and in turn, affect the offspring.
A previous study found the greatest predictor of depression in mothers is depression in fathers, so the importance of screening new and expectant fathers for depression and working with them to reduce stress is paramount to baby's health.
Stressors for New Dads
All new parents will experience big life changes, and with those, stress. However, the specific types of stress can be different for men and women. For men these are some of the more common sources of stress:
Dads may feel extraordinary pressure as a baby's arrival looms closer, as Mom may be off work, and likely unpaid, and the couple may not know for sure how things will work out job-wise for her for a time. Additionally, he may be concerned about needing time off for the birth and the early days of baby at home.
He may be worried about how long hours at work may affect his family, and similarly worry how not coming in and staying long at work may affect his job security. If he frequently has to travel for work, he may not be as willing to do so now.
Being in a committed relationship is a far cry from being a committed parent. Babies need you round the clock, and there is no real time off. This may make some men feel rather panicked at the prospect, doubting their ability to handle this new type of responsibility.
Expectant parents start losing sleep before baby even arrives, with all the discomforts of pregnancy, false alarms, and schedule disruptions. Once baby arrives, sleep is a precious commodity. New dads may wonder if they can keep up with everything, on a couple hours sleep.
Change to relationship
Many fathers worry how having a baby will change their relationship to their spouse. Will she be stuck in Mommy mode? Will they rekindle their spark? With short sleep and overworked schedules, tempers can flare and even couples who never argued before may now find themselves in a state of constant irritation with one another.
How to Handle New Dad Stress
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following methods to combat stress:
1. Get involved.
Take prenatal classes with your partner. Read books. Go to the doctor's appointments, and when baby arrives, room in with your family. Be a hands-on dad from day one, so you never get a chance to feel out of the loop. Learn with your wife how to care for your newborn before leaving the hospital.
2. Learn about your financial options.
Talk to human resources at work about your options in the company for paternity leave, time off, vacation time, and flexible scheduling. Talk to a financial planner about your current state of finances and how best to plan for the changes a baby will bring to your family's money situation.
3. Look for fathering buddies or mentors.
If you surround yourself with negative people who don't have children or don't make fathering a priority, you will do yourself a disservice. Instead, seek out those who have a relationship with their families that you'd like to emulate.
4. Find ways to connect to your lady, whether emotional or physical.
Sex won't be a big priority for awhile, but that doesn't mean you can let your relationship slide. Instead, find ways to get together to talk about something other than baby each day. Show affection through a warm hug, a kiss hello, and a gentle squeeze of the shoulder or even a playful touch that doesn't demand more.
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