At some point in their lives, everyone experiences something that makes them feel anxious. One major life event that can cause anxiety is having a child.

While the focus during pregnancy is often on the birthing parent, a 2021 review revealed that fathers experience anxiety at higher rates than average during their partner’s pregnancy and the first year of parenthood.

What are some causes of anxiety for non-birthing parents? How can this anxiety manifest itself, and what can help you manage it? Read on to learn more.

Language matters

Some of the studies referenced in this article involved only individuals who identified as men. But non-birthing parents can be people of any gender.

When talking about the results of a specific study, we may use the term “fathers” to accurately cite the research. Please note that many of the causes of anxiety are common among non-birthing parents of all genders.

A 2017 study looked at posts on Reddit to identify common worries for non-birthing parents.

Common sources of anxiety found in posts from non-birthing parents included:

  • fears for the baby’s health
  • concerns for the birthing parent
  • worries about the future of the adults’ relationship
  • nervousness about the role of being a father
  • uneasiness about potential work-family conflicts

There’s a lot to unpack with these topics, so let’s dive a little deeper into some of these causes of anxiety.

1. Pregnancy or birth complications

It’s completely natural to worry about the health of the birthing parent or your unborn child. Most pregnancies proceed without any problems, but complications can sometimes happen.

Some of the more common complications in pregnancy or childbirth include:

Many potential complications during pregnancy can be managed effectively with prompt medical attention. It’s also important to keep up with prenatal visits and testing.

If you’re concerned about potential complications, you may want to attend prenatal appointments whenever possible. You can ask to speak with the birthing parent’s OB-GYN to help set your mind at ease.

You can also read books about pregnancy and labor to learn more.

2. Finances

Raising a baby can be costly. Whether your concerns are the early costs of day care and diapers or long-term costs like college, it’s natural to worry about whether you’ll have enough money for your child.

You may wish to research what free programs and resources are available for new parents in your community. Meeting with a financial advisor can also help you get a long-term plan in order.

3. Postpartum adjustment

Postpartum anxiety and depression are not only experienced by the birthing parent. A 2019 review of studies found that about 1 in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression and anxiety.

Keep in mind that although postpartum depression can occur at any point in the baby’s first year of life, the risk for non-birthing parents is highest when the baby is 3 to 6 months old.

Being a parent can bring many lifestyle changes, including sleepless nights. If you’re having a hard time managing these adjustments or feel that you might be experiencing anxiety or depression, it’s important to seek help right away.

4. Infant health

As a parent of a newborn, it’s completely natural to feel protective over your child. Medical professionals are there to help make sure your baby is healthy.

Immediately after they’re born, your baby will receive various wellness checks. Additionally, you’ll see their pediatrician frequently for the first month after your baby is born.

If you’re worried about your infant’s health, never hesitate to reach out to their pediatrician. Reading books and attending classes can also help you know what to expect and how to help your baby if they are sick.

5. Lifestyle changes

Carefree days, intimacy, and working late are all things you might fear will be long gone after the baby arrives.

It’s true that a lot of new responsibilities come with parenthood. It’s important to keep in mind that you may be able to share these with the birthing parent or other adults.

If you have an intimate relationship with the birthing parent, you may wonder how having a child will affect that.

About 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth, the birthing parent is usually medically cleared to begin having sexual intercourse, but not every individual feels physically and emotionally ready. You’ll want to talk with your partner about this.

Finally, finding a work-life balance can be tricky, especially in the first few weeks of your baby’s life. Many companies offer parental leave benefits for non-birthing parents. It can be helpful to look into what options for paid leave exist prior to your baby’s arrival.

6. Will I be a good enough parent?

It’s very common to wonder what type of parent you’ll be or even if you’ll be a good parent.

If you are experiencing feelings of doubt in this area, it can be helpful to surround yourself with other non-birthing parents at the same stage who can relate to your present day-to-day experiences.

Having a support team of fellow parents and professionals you respect can help encourage and guide you as you grow as a parent.

Feelings of anxiety can be physical or mental.

While exact symptoms can vary from person to person, you may find that you’re:

  • eating all the time or feeling too worried to eat
  • having trouble falling asleep at night
  • wanting to sleep all the time
  • having trouble concentrating
  • becoming withdrawn from others
  • experiencing rapid breathing or a racing heartbeat

If feelings of anxiety are cycling, getting more intense, or interfering with your daily life, it’s a good idea to talk with a medical professional.

If you’re experiencing anxiety, you’ll want to get support, find ways to prepare, and stay connected. To do this, you can:

  • Learn more about pregnancy. Consider taking a childbirth or parenting class or working with a doula. A 2020 review found that fathers who attended pre-birth classes were less anxious than those who did not. You can also read books about pregnancy, postpartum, and child development.
  • Talk with a financial consultant. They can help you create a budget and make a long-term financial plan.
  • Speak to a therapist. At least one study has shown counseling to be an effective way to reduce anxiety in fathers-to-be.
  • Join a support group. In-person groups for non-birthing or new parents are a great way to bond with others in your community. If there are no local options, you may wish to join a virtual group.
  • Keep a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep, exercising, and meditating can help your body cope with stress.

It’s natural to feel stress as a non-birthing parent. Your life is in the midst of a lot of changes.

Some common sources of anxiety are the health of the baby and birthing parent, worries about finances, and questions about your ability to be a good parent.

While some anxiety is expected, you may wish to speak with a counselor if it’s disrupting your sleep, diet, or daily activities. They can help you to better understand and manage your fears.