New research from Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) shows the number of new and
expecting dads completing their Mental Health Checklist during their partner’s pregnancy and following
the birth of their child has more than doubled in the 12 months to December 2022*.
Feelings men experience during this time are both physical and emotional.
85 percent feel worried, and seven in 10 admit to feeling sad or tearful.
Symptoms including feeling isolated (87%) and lacking confidence in becoming a parent (67%) are also common during the perinatal period, while two thirds (61%) experience panic attacks.
The findings have been released during Men’s Health Week (June 12-18), to raise awareness of the
mental health challenges dads experience during their partner’s pregnancy and the first year of their
PANDA CEO Julie Borninkhof said it is encouraging to see more men engaging with PANDA’s Mental
Health Checklist, but there is more work to be done to support men during their partner’s pregnancy
and the early stages of their baby’s life.
“One in 10 calls to the PANDA Helpline are made by men, who engage with the service seven times
on average, via email, text message or phone call. Parenthood is generally a shared experience between mums and dads, but we often overlook that new dads feel the same uncertainty with their changing responsibilities,” Ms Borninkhof said.
“Equal recognition of mental health experiences among fathers is important for encouraging them to
seek support, so they can be more present for their baby and partner.”
To support new dads, PANDA has a range of resources available and works closely with SMS4dads,
a free text service that sends text messages with ideas, tips, advice, and information straight to their
“SMS4dads came about because fathers told us that the health system doesn’t provide services that
speak directly to dads,” said Richard Fletcher PhD, Associate Professor, Fathers and Families
Research Program, School of Health Sciences University of Newcastle.
“SMS4dads sends brief text messages that support men in their role as fathers and increases
awareness of their influence on baby’s brain development. It also provides tips on working collaboratively with their partner and checks in on their wellbeing and offers professional support if needed.”
Since the service launched, over 12,000 dads have enrolled in SMS4dads and received text
messages and support in the lead up to the birth of their baby and throughout the first 12 months of
PANDA offers Australia’s only free Perinatal Mental Health Helpline, community and health
professionals learning hub and helpful resources translated into 40 languages.
“If people are feeling overwhelmed or not themselves, or if they are seeing signs of mental health
distress in loved ones, our website offers 24-hour access to our online mental health checklist,” Ms
Symptoms of perinatal mental health
Some signs you or someone you know, might be suffering from perinatal mental health issues:
- You are showing signs of exhaustion, even if you have had enough sleep, or you can’t sleepat all;
- There are changes to your appetite such as having little appetite or craving food to feel better, emotionally;
- You are relying on drugs or alcohol to feel better emotionally;
- You are showing physical symptoms of panic, worry or anxiety or even having panic attacks;
- You may seem more angry, irritable, and intolerant. You may even worry a lot more, especially about your baby or your ability as a parent;
- You find yourself working more to avoid things at home;
- You feel changes in emotional areas such as greater sadness, being frightened to be alone, not wanting to be with other people, or feeling more withdrawn from your partner, friends, or family;
- You feel disconnected with your partner and the pregnancy or the baby;
- You have trouble concentrating, often checking things multiple times, finding it hard to focus or even make decisions;
- You are at risk of harming yourself or others.
If you or someone you love needs support:
• PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 (9am-7:30pm Monday-Saturday) or panda.org.au
• Lifeline: 13 11 14 (24/7) or lifeline.org.au