Research highlights postnatal depression impact on digital behaviours and lack of resources for new dads


New parents often find themselves with negative self-image and feel alienated from support networks, new research has found.

The Birmingham City University research explores the mental health of new parents and the importance of social support upon entering parenthood.

School of Social Sciences

Birmingham City University

The studies conducted by social scientist Iris-Anda Ilies found new parents experiencing the early postnatal period as physically and emotionally overwhelming, in turn influencing their online interactions and leading to negative comparisons with other parents and reduced social media participation out of fear of being judged.

Whilst digital platforms were found useful in providing parenting information and advice, online comparisons were linked to risk of developing postnatal depression, with parents reporting feeling pressured by societal expectations.

New fathers reported a lack of resources or support groups online, with health and wellbeing organisations being found more likely to discuss postnatal depression in detail in a maternal rather than paternal context.

“Paternal mental health appeared to be overlooked both within the medical context and the digital context, according to the interviews with dads”, explained researcher Iris-Anda Ilies.

“This research has clinical implications, as these findings could inform healthcare professionals about postnatal depression risk factors, challenges in adjustment to parenthood, as well as language related to postnatal depression.

“Findings could also assist in the development of training materials and improvement of perinatal check-ups and encourage equal post-childbirth assistance to both mothers and fathers.”

The research was conducted through questionnaires and interviews as well as an analysis of more than 15,000 tweets related to postnatal depression, which found females were more self-focused and descriptive in commentary related to postnatal depression whilst males were more general and focused on others in their discussions.

Postnatal depression is the focus of an ongoing storyline in TV soap Emmerdale, with fans praising actress Amy Walsh in her portrayal of character Tracy Metcalfe’s experience.

Iris' supervisory team includes: Dr Emily Coyne-Umfreville, Dr Helen Egan and Dr Pelham Carter. 

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