Mental health challenges after a birth defect diagnosis: Dads

June 16, 2023

It's normal to have mental health challenges after your baby gets a birth defect diagnosis. You may feel worried, sad, angry, or confused about how to support your partner. You'll likely have a lot of questions and concerns.  

What are birth defects?

Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part of the body. They may affect how the body looks, works or both.

Birth defects can happen at any time during pregnancy. But most happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy (also called first trimester), when your baby’s organs are forming. Birth defects also can happen later in pregnancy, when your baby’s organs are still growing and developing.

Some birth defects don’t need treatment or can be treated easily. But other birth defects need quick treatment because they cause serious problems or even death.

How do people feel when their baby gets a birth defect diagnosis?

Dads and their partners have many different types of emotions when their baby gets a birth defect diagnosis.

Depression and anxiety

It’s normal to feel anxious and sad if you’re facing that your baby has a birth defect diagnosis. But if you’re feeling more than just sad, you may be experiencing a mood or anxiety disorder like depression. Depression is a medical condition that affects your thoughts, can interfere with the activities you usually carry out in your daily life and even causes changes to your body.  

Depression needs treatment to help you feel better. If you think you’re depressed, or have symptoms of depression, tell your health care provider right away. 


Depression may come with feelings of loneliness, but you are not alone. About 1 in 10 dads gets postpartum depression. Additionally, parents who have a baby with birth defects is common. It’s estimated that a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes in the United States-- about 120,000 babies are affected each year.       

Blame and grief

Some parents blame themselves. But, more often than not, the cause is unknown and outside your control.

It's normal to grieve. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) “learning that your baby will require hospitalization or multiple medical interventions after birth represents a loss of the life you imagined having with your new child.”

How do you find support?

When your baby gets a birth defect diagnosis, it is important to get support. There are many different resources available for dads and birthing people who have a baby with a birth defect diagnosis.  

You can talk to:

  • A medical care team that specializes in treating birth defects.
  • Your prenatal care provider.
  • A mental health provider or counselor.
  • Other families or people who have gone through the same experience in a support group 

There are also organizations that focus on specific birth defects and families with children who have special health care needs.