Fathers suffering PTSD after difficult births
FATHERS are being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing their partners have difficult births.
Experts say dads are forgotten when a birth becomes complicated and are expected to "suck it up" and act as a support to the labouring mums.
But the terror of haemorrhage, emergency surgical intervention and babies that aren't breathing is sparking flashbacks, depression and even suicidal thoughts in some men.
"Woman may be confused, semiconscious or dissociated rather than fully aware of what is happening but father is only too aware," a spokeswoman from the Australasian Birth Trauma Association told The Courier-Mail.
Griffith University head of midwifery Professor Jenny Gamble said she had been in contact with men with trauma symptoms during her research project on post-birth phone counselling.
"The mums would sometimes say, 'Look, I am OK, but can you speak to my husband?' " she said.
The birth trauma association says dads are seen as the supporters, the breadwinners and parent to other children while mum recovers.
They may feel despair that there was nothing they could do to help their partner or feel guilty for making her pregnant in the first place, with the result that they avoid physical intimacy.
"At present, birth trauma is not always diagnosed accurately and affected couples should seek expert advice from healthcare professionals," the spokesperson said.
Gold Coast father of two Haydn Jenkins said men were often reluctant to talk about feeling traumatised after their child's birth.
"It's not easy saying that I have PTSD from watching my wife give birth; after all, it was her body that was dealing with it all," the high school teacher said.
"My wife was having a C-section, and was a bit out of it and wasn't really aware of the whole change of mood in the delivery suite that showed something was badly wrong.
"Percy was born unresponsive and it was terrifying, and Amie haemorrhaged and lost a lot of blood.
"I was whisked away and kept in the dark for about two hours not knowing how they were.
"Luckily both came out OK."
The 35-year-old said the experience had made himself and Amie think twice about having more children..
"I was having dark suicidal thoughts," he said.
"I started to see a counsellor, who explained that the whole situation was not my fault.
"I had been pretty irrational and even blamed little Percy for the whole thing.
"Thankfully I got the help I needed, and I am speaking out to help other men."