Dr Yaseen Aslam is a consultant psychiatrist and medical director at the LightHouse Arabia
“Becoming a father can be one of the most significant and profoundly life-changing events for any man. Often we’re told about the positive aspects, but fatherhood can be a very daunting proposition. It’s often a difficult period of transition and adjustment for many men. They’re required to be more organised, to plan more effectively, and to balance the demands of a new baby with all their other growing commitments.
“It’s not merely an increased financial responsibility; fatherhood also requires men to be more flexible in order to support their partners, particularly on an emotional level. Often fathers-to-be describe feeling ill-prepared and apprehensive about the daunting task which lies ahead. Many men find that they’re helped by forging new relationships with other fathers, allowing them to relate to each other and share experiences.
Read more about the pressures on modern parents here
“First-time fathers can experience feelings of rejection and abandonment with the birth of a new baby, as their partner focuses much of her attention – and time – on the new baby. Many couples don’t take the time to listen to each other and explore each other’s feelings during this difficult adjustment period, and this can lead to a whole host of issues, with some fathers acting out due to frustration and anger, driven by feelings of rejection and being pushed out.
“One such issue is with intimacy, which is often affected for a host of reasons. The psychological and physical impact of pregnancy, delivery, sleepless nights and breastfeeding can be challenging, exhausting and draining, to say the least, and there’s the physical and hormonal changes relating to pregnancy and childbirth that affect a woman’s sex drive as well as her body image, self-esteem and confidence. Some men simply don’t understand the emotional effects childbirth has on a woman, and men and women often have differing views on sex; for men, there’s a greater physical component, while for women emotional intimacy and connections are equally as important and postnatal psychological effects can negatively impact on a woman’s emotional connection to her husband.
“Although motherhood is unique and intrinsically different from fatherhood, with women tending to be naturally more in tune with their babies thanks to closeness from pregnancy and – if applicable – breastfeeding, it’s equally as important for fathers to form strong bonds with their children. It’s the strength of these bonds that defines the closeness of relationships, and indeed these bonds are the foundation of the parent-child relationship. Healthy attachments are integral to a child’s emotional and psychological well-being.
“While much is made of perinatal issues affecting women, we underestimate how much they also affect men. Research from Britain’s Oxford University indicates the pressure upon men to manage the new responsibilities of fatherhood, support their partners, balance career and work pressure whilst playing an active and involved parental role can lead to increase rates of depression, especially if the right support networks aren’t in place. Let’s remember dads aren’t always superheroes; they need some understanding too.”
Photos by Istock/Shutterstock. This article was originally published in Aquarius magazine.