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Mums are less likely to suffer from postnatal depression if their partner takes paternity leave

Support for new mums from health professionals, family and friends is extremely important. But new research has highlighted the best help a woman who has given birth can receive is from her partner.

A new study has found that women are less likely to suffer from depressive symptoms if her baby daddy is able to take time off as well after she has given birth.


Mums are less likely to suffer from postnatal depression if their partner takes paternity leave

 Economists from the University of Stanford looked at the reforms in paternal leave in Sweden. Before 2012, dads were not able to take paid leave at the same time as mums after their baby was born.

However, a change in legislation in the country allowed fathers to take up to 30 day of paid leave on an intermittent basis within the first year of their child being born, even while the mothers were on leave.

Experts found mums were less likely to need to see a specialist or suffer from mastitis and other infections within the first six months after childbirth.

They were also 11 per cent less likely to need antibiotics and 26 per cent less likely to be prescribed with anxiety prescriptions within the first three months after their child was born.

Interestingly, the study found that the majority of new dads only used paid leave for a few days instead of the maximum 30 days they were allowed. This is a strong indicator of how a couple of extra days support can help new mums.

“Our study underscores that the father’s presence in the household shortly after childbirth can have important consequences for the new mother’s physical and mental health,” says co-author Petra Persson.

“The key here is that families are granted the flexibility to decide, on a day-to-day basis, exactly when to have the dad stay home.

“If, for example, the mum gets early symptoms of mastitis while breastfeeding, the dad can take one or two days off from work so that the mum can rest, which may avoid complications from the infection or the need for antibiotics.”

Meanwhile, the other co-author of the study, Maya Rossin-Slater says there’s a lot of discussion around how to support mums by encouraging them to take time off after birth, but we don’t always think about fathers and their role in helping support new mums with a newborn.

“It’s important to think not only about giving families access to some leave, but also about letting them have agency over how they use it,” she says.

“It’s not like fathers are going to end up using a whole month to just stay home and watch TV. We don’t find any evidence of that.

“Instead they only use a limited number of days precisely when the timing for that seems most beneficial for the family.”

The UK Government offers up to two weeks of government-funded Partner Pay at the rate £148.68 (April 2019) per week. However, some companies offer their employers paternity pay.

Signs of postnatal depression and anxiety


Postnatal depression (PND) doesn’t discriminate – it can hit anyone at any time, mums and dads included.

Stats reveal it affects one in seven new mums and can occur after the first, last or after all pregnancies and usually occurs after the baby is born and can last up until a year.

Symptoms of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Feeling Anxious
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having a low mood
  • Feeling down or a failure
  • Worrying about your baby
  • Crying excessively, feeling irritable, mood swings or panic attacks
  • Fear of being alone with your baby
  • Fear of being alone or going out

Currently, there is no known cause for it with many experts believing it’s down to the surge in hormones a woman experiences during and after pregnancy.

Postpartum anxiety can occur for no particular reason or could occur because either a mum or dad is feeling anxious about a certain situation or event.

woman in postnatal depression

Signs of postpartum anxiety include:

  • Feeling on edge
  • Having constant feelings of worry or fear
  • Struggling to sleep
  • Worrying about your baby
  • Panic attacks
  • General anxiety
  • Social phobia (fear of going out)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Anxiety during pregnancy can often result in woman being at greater risk for postpartum depression and may also affect pregnancy outcomes.

What’s more, up to half of people who have postnatal anxiety with suffer from postnatal depression at the same time.

If your anxiety is mild, your GP may refer you to talk to someone. For more serious anxieties, you made need treatment with medicine or psychological therapies.

Getting the support you need

If you or someone you know is struggling, then remember you are not alone. Have a look at some of our other stories on PND here and here for ways to get the help you deserve. Visit your GP as soon as you can to put together a mental health care plan.

Join our Healthy Mummy support groups for support through other mums, judgement-free!


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