Fatherhood is a very crucial period in a person’s life. Welcoming your little one into this world along with your partner has been no cakewalk. Fathers have to help and support their partners throughout the months of pregnancy. And once the child arrives, fathers have to really step up their game and take the responsibilities all the more seriously.
When we talk or hear about postpartum depression, we often associate it with what new mothers go through. It is true, after all, that pregnancy and childbirth can do a number on you, both mentally and physically. While it is true that mothers primarily experience postpartum depression, there is a lesser-known fact — new fathers can experience this as well. It may be surprising, but it is true. It is estimated that one in every ten dads could experience postpartum depression. It is very real, something that shouldn’t be discounted (1).
We’re here to tell you what paternal postpartum depression is and how to spot the signs. In knowing the symptoms, you will be able to help a father who is in mental and emotional turmoil. Read on for more on this:
Postpartum Depression In Men — What Is It?
Postpartum depression is classified as a particular form of depression that primarily occurs in a parent after the birth of their child. In most cases, this condition is observed in mothers. However, fathers can experience postpartum depression as well. The idea of a father experiencing postpartum depression may seem puzzling as they don’t go through the trauma associated with childbirth, nor do they require physical recovery. However, the transition into their role of a father and the newest addition to the family can be a significant life change. Changes such as this can have a profound impact on a person’s mental well-being. Fathers have their own set of challenges to face, including stress and exhaustion. There may be finances involved, worries about their wife’s recovery, and even an identity crisis. All of these factors may contribute to paternal depression or postpartum depression (2).
Several factors may contribute to postpartum depression in men. This includes a shift in hormones, a sense of disconnection from the newborn and the mother, a family history of depression, sleep deprivation, and partner’s depression (1). Though how exactly depression originates in a person is a much bigger topic beyond the scope of this article, we do know for sure that its effects can have a detrimental effect on a person’s psyche and wellbeing.
How To Spot The Signs Of Postpartum Depression
Soon after childbirth, a father will experience stress, exhaustion, and several overwhelming emotions. This is all part and parcel of parenthood. However, if all these feelings of anxiety, emotional upheaval, and fatigue persist to the point that they affect daily life, it could be a cause for concern.
Most of the symptoms associated with postpartum depression overlap with major depressive disorder. A new father suffering from postpartum depression may experience some of these symptoms (3):
- A change in appetite (either an increase or a loss of appetite)
- Trouble falling or staying asleep
- An overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or sadness
- Loss of energy
- Sudden outbursts, display of anger, violent behavior
- A sense of worthlessness or guilt
- Inability to bond with the child
- Trouble with concentration and problems with decision making
- Loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed indulging in before they became a dad
- Excessively worrying about everything
- Talking about or indulging in suicidal thoughts or obsessing over death
- Intrusive thoughts that include wanting to harm their baby
- Pains and aches in the body
- Lack of productivity at work
- Withdrawing from social activities and relationships
Helping Fathers Who Suffer From Postpartum Depression
Soon after childbirth, obstetricians and gynecologists check the new mother for any signs that could indicate postpartum depression. Sadly, no such screening is conducted for new fathers. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently announced that postpartum depression in men is a reality and that obstetricians must conduct depression screenings for new fathers too. Additionally, they recommended that every time new parents make a pediatric visit, the doctor screen both of them for postpartum depression. They further urged that these screenings be incorporated into regular pediatric check-ups (4).
Earlier in 2020, the Journal of the AAP made a public service announcement that the mental health of new parents, irrespective of their gender, should be assessed and taken into consideration so comprehensive treatment could be administered (5).
Postpartum depression may go away on its own, but sometimes, it may require professional intervention. Couples therapy, talk therapy, psychotherapy, certain medications, and alternative therapies such as massages, exercise, and acupuncture can make a huge difference (1).
Probably the first stage in addressing postpartum depression in new fathers is to acknowledge that it is there. We tend to downplay the mental health of new fathers, but the truth is that depression isn’t biased when it comes to gender — it can hit anyone and send them through a downward spiral. Those who are going through it should try confiding it with their partners or someone close instead of keeping it buried.
Not acknowledging the existence of depression or brushing it off as something temporary can only make matters worse. Some might have the notion that since fathers haven’t gone through physical pain like mothers they would be totally fine and it’s not possible for them to even feel the blues. But the fact is that fatherhood also brings about a sea change in a person’s life and the intensity of it can overwhelm anyone. Postpartum depression in new dads is as much a possibility as it is for new mothers. With the right help and intervention, they can overcome it and enjoy the joys of parenthood. What are your thoughts on postpartum depression in new fathers? Have you or someone you know experienced this condition? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
- Postpartum Depression in Men
- Prevalence of prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers: A comprehensive meta-analysis of observational surveys
- Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Men
- Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal Depression Into Pediatric Practice
- A Call to Action: Screening Fathers for Perinatal Depression