For many years, NSW Health has provided parenting support, information and screening that has focused on new mums. Now, they are trying to find better ways to offer the same kind of support to new dads.
The Focus on New Fathers pilot aims to assist fathers in feeling confident and supported in their role. The program sends text messages to dads, offering valuable health advice and links into pathways to ensure support options are available.
Ellie Saberi, Women and Children Health Program Coordinator for Northern NSW Local Health District said parenthood could be a difficult time for new fathers as well new mothers.
“New dads want to be able to concentrate on their partners and children at this time, and they often don’t think to look after themselves as well,” Ms Saberi said.
“Research has shown men are often reluctant to engage with the health system to get support, despite around one in ten dads experiencing depression and anxiety in the postnatal period.
“This program is about letting fathers know they’re not alone and there is support for them when they need it.”
Men living in Northern NSW can sign up if they are over the age of 18, their partner is at least 16 weeks pregnant or their baby is younger than 24 weeks. They need to have a mobile phone capable of receiving and sending text messages.
The messages focus on the father’s self-care, support to their partner and father-child attachment. Messages can start from as early as 16 weeks into the pregnancy and continue up until 24 weeks following the birth of the baby. These messages will provide information to support fathers in their role, including at times when parenting is extra challenging.
Those who have used the service previously have found it to be incredibly valuable, with one participant stating:
“I loved everything. The tips, the reminders to stay with it. How to help. Sometimes I felt like you could hear me because the tips always came right on queue.”
The pilot program, which is being delivered by the University of Newcastle in partnership with NSW Health, will run over the next year.
Associate Professor Elisabeth Murphy, Senior Clinical Advisor, Child and Family Health, said self-care for new fathers was extremely important as the mental and physical wellbeing of both parents had a direct effect on their children.
“Receiving help with health issues early on ensures dads are in the best possible position to care for their new baby and partner,” Associate Professor Murphy said.