RESEARCHERS from Bournemouth University want to hear from fathers who have been left traumatised after watching their partner give birth.
It is believed around 10 per cent of dads become depressed before and after birth - with some even experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But experts fear fathers who are unable to recover from their experiences in the delivery room are suffering in silence with little support available.
Dr Andrew Mayers, principal academic at Bournemouth University specialising in perinatal mental health, hopes research carried out by psychology student Emily Daniels will inform healthcare and charity professionals and support workers.
He said: “When a mother experiences birth trauma, the medical resources are understandably directed towards protecting her life and that of the baby. However, anecdotal evidence from the people I work with across the UK suggests that dads are not getting enough support. When a father witnesses these highly distressing events, they can experience extreme shock. They can feel they are about to lose their partner and/or the new child, but they watch knowing that they can do nothing.
“These traumatic events can be the trigger for the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The risk for that can be minimised by ensuring that fathers get post trauma support from professionals. They can also look out for the signs that may indicate the onset of PTSD (such as experiencing flashbacks, sleep problems, mood changes, becoming remote or withdrawn, and being easily startled.)”
He added: “I don’t think fathers get enough support. Support is crucial for mothers too but we need additional support for fathers.”
Mark Williams, 42, from campaigning organisation Fathers Reaching Out, said he had a panic attack when he thought his wife Michelle and their baby were going to die in the delivery room - and later the couple both suffered severe postnatal depression.
He said: “Support is so important as fathers and families witness their loved ones going through a traumatic experience. Sometimes the father sees more than the mother and feels helplessness.
“Communication in the labour room can also cause trauma. Fearing that the mother and baby could die, many fathers suffer PTSD and have nightmares and flashbacks. If the father isn't supported the first time, the second birth could lead to anxiety fearing it could happen again. We made the decision not to have any more children.”
A spokesman from the Birth Trauma Association said fathers suffer from traumatic births too however there is a 'definite lack of support.'
To take part in the study, visit https://bournemouthpsych.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9MoePOxS13BhvXn