A systematic review of anxiety in fathers in the perinatal period finds that it negatively impacts on the baby and family. Fathers’ parenting skills and confidence, social relationships, and health, both mental and physical, are affected.
The researchers recommend that services should support fathers, given that fathers commonly attend services during the perinatal period. Couple-focused approaches are particularly recommended. But the researchers also observe that “healthcare professionals are slow to include and involve fathers in the perinatal period”. [The Family Included team is currently considering how to provide support to fathers without dependence on health services.]
The review covered 34 studies from 19 countries involving 7,694 fathers.
Reported prevalence of anxiety – apprehension and fearful concern – is 3.4% to 25% in the antenatal period and 2.4% to 51% in the postnatal period. It appears to grow during the antenatal period, peak around the birth and diminish after.
Five of the studies report interventions that act to reduce anxiety: a lifestyle-based training program, an education program, a universal prevention program and music therapy.
Predictors of anxiety include earlier mental health issues, social and economic factors (e.g. lower education, lower income, lower age, frequent alcohol use, smoking) and current family situation (e.g. low support from mother, low prenatal attachment, having twins, having an insecure anxious attachment style, work-family conflict, partner anxiety or depression).
Philpott LF, Savage E, FitzGerald S, Leahy-Warren P (2019), Anxiety in fathers in the perinatal period: A systematic review, Midwifery 76
Photo: Michael McIllwraith. Creative Commons.