‘Isolated’ and ‘excluded’: 350 men share how it felt to become fathers.

Too many Australian men are missing out on sufficient health care when they’re unable to conceive, have lost a pregnancy or child, or are struggling with parenthood, research by a leading men’s health organisation has found.
  • 43% of men say the health system failed them as they planned to or became a father
  • Experts call for new health checks for men and a review of pregnancy and parenting classes

A Healthy Male survey of 367 men who tried to father a child or had fathered a child revealed 43% felt the health system failed to engage, support and inform them along the way.

While reproductive health services understandably focus on mothers and babies, many men said they were treated as secondary to fertility, birthing and parenting processes – welcome, but not active partners. Some said they felt “invisible”, “excluded” and like “second class parents” when navigating the health system during this time.

While 1 in 20 men experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy, the survey found only 16% of men recall being asked how they were coping during this time. And despite 1 in 10 men experiencing depression soon after birth, less than 30% of men said health professionals provided them with support during the first year of their baby’s life.

A second survey of 159 health professionals found 61% believed the health system was letting men down, and that more could be done to protect and foster men’s health during the transition to fatherhood.

“Australian society and our health system has not kept pace with the changing needs, expectations, roles and diversity of modern-day families.”

Healthy Male CEO Simon von Saldern

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Australian men are either trying to conceive, or experience pregnancy, birth, or the loss of a pregnancy or baby. The average age of first time fathers is 33.

While having a baby is a joyous time for many men, the risk of suicide is higher for men before and after the birth of a child compared to any other time in their lives.

In response to the Australian Government’s National Men’s Health Strategy 2020-2030’s call for a more inclusive approach to parenthood, Healthy Male embarked on a project called Plus Paternal: A focus on fathers. 

With guidance from a national, multi-disciplinary advisory group, Plus Paternal investigated the experiences of Australian men, health professionals and policy makers to determine what, if anything, needs to change to improve the health and wellbeing of fathers, prospective fathers and their families.

“We found a pressing need and a strong desire for change to help men become healthier, happier fathers,” Mr von Saldern said.

“There is a wide range of organisations across Australia committed to the health and wellbeing of families, and some great work is happening with fathers already. But more needs to be done.”

Healthy Male CEO Simon von Saldern

A “Case for Change” launched by Healthy Male today, calls for:

  • Health checks for men when they’re planning to conceive, during pregnancy and after their baby arrives.
  • A review of birthing and parenting classes to make sure they meet the needs of men and offer practical advice about how to manage common problems such as sleep deprivation or intimate relationship changes.
  • Health professionals to engage more with men and care for their needs as well as the mother and baby’s.
  • Training for health professionals to offer more emotional support to men during fertility treatment or at times of loss.
  • Parental leave and flexible work arrangements for fathers with uptake encouraged and modelled by leaders.
  • Better tools to screen men for postnatal anxiety and depression.

Healthy Male (Andrology Australia) provides evidence-based health information on male reproductive and sexual health issues, and the chronic and related health issues associated with them, for men and health professionals.  

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