The American family faces many challenges when a baby is on the way. Most of the attention goes toward the health, safety and mental well-being of the mother. However, the expectant father also goes through changes to prepare for the birth. Fathers obviously can't feel the physical effects of pregnancy on the body -- that is solely a maternal experience. The dads do share in the anxiety that moms-to-be feel about the new addition. Understanding how anxiety manifests in expectant fathers can help families spot and begin treatment before the baby arrives.
A Paternal Kind of Anxiety
Anxiety in an expectant father sometimes develops at the moment he hears the words "I'm pregnant." Most of the time, the anxiety is unnecessary or excessive worry over some very rational things. Financial issues, baby's safety after the birth, mom's medical well-being and even dad's ability to act as a father to the child are all things the mind challenges in paternal anxiety. First-time fathers may also worry about the change their lives must undergo to accommodate a baby. This anxiety usually dissipates with education about the pregnancy and child-rearing process. Some fathers lose the anxiety with time, and others may need a little medical intervention to help overcome the anxiety. The fathers who most need the medical help are those who cannot function normally because of the paternal anxiety.
Any expectant father can develop some anxiety. This includes dads who already have other children. Fathers with multiple children usually worry about finances, space for the baby and having time for one more child. The most at-risk fathers are those who have a history of anxiety, depression or related mental health conditions. The upcoming birth can be a trigger for those conditions. It is difficult to predict who will have paternal anxiety and how long it will last. Looking for the signs and symptoms is a lot easier.
What It Looks Like
Fathers are rarely candid about their fears or mental health. Often, the only way to identify the anxiety is to look for the signs and symptoms. Insomnia, changes in routine, restlessness, excessive worry, loss of interest in regular activities, a decline in work performance, and obsession with the pregnancy and the baby are some of the things to look for. Investigate any marked change in the father-to-be. Anxious fathers may feel heart palpitations, loss of appetite and difficulty concentrating on normal activities. If you discover any of these signs or symptoms, the father and family should seek help.
Fathers who suspect they have anxiety can turn to the mother's obstetrician for help. These professionals are trained in spotting the anxiety and connecting the mother to the proper mental health professionals for treatment. They can do the same for dads. Often, the anxiety is mild and can be treated with educational and informational activities, such as parenting and birthing classes, according to the experts at KidsHealth. These activities help dads understand the birth event and child rearing, which is sometimes enough to take the anxiety away. Books on pregnancy and support groups may also help.