Almost everyone knows that new mothers can sometimes go through postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. There are plenty of articles about the subject online and daytime talk shows often discuss the topic. In women, anxiety and depression can be the result of many factors – sleeplessness, a new routine, feeling like you’re losing control, and radical swings in hormone levels all contribute to the “baby blues.” But, while new moms are the usual focus of postnatal depression, what about the new dad? Can men get postpartum depression, too?
While it would seem unlikely, it is not uncommon for new dads to also go through a period of depression after the birth of their child. In fact, in 2010, American Medical Association (AMA) researchers reported that slightly more than 10 percent of new fathers experience paternal postpartum depression (PPND). That figure is roughly twice as high as “regular” depression rates in the general male population.
Postpartum Depression in Men
In February, 2017 JAMA Psychiatry published the results of a New Zealand study of more than 3,500 men who were about to become fathers. These study participants filled out questionnaires when their partners were in their third trimester of pregnancy and answered follow-up questions nine months after the birth of their child.
The researchers found that while some of the new fathers showed signs of depression, this mental disorder was most likely to be present in the men who reported being in fair-to-poor health or under stress during the pregnancy. All in all, about 2.3 percent of the study’s expectant fathers exhibited signs of depression before the birth of the baby.
When the study follow-up was done nine months after the birth of their child, postpartum depression in the new fathers had increased. At this point, 4.3 percent of the men who were participating reported symptoms of PPND. This postpartum depression in men was not only associated with stress during the actual pregnancy, but had risen due to other factors that happened after the birth, such as becoming unemployed, having a prior depression history, or no longer being in a relationship with the child’s mother. It was also no surprise that the men’s risk increased if the baby had health concerns, was colicky and not sleeping well, or if the pregnancy was unplanned.
The AMA study done in 2010 showed that the men’s postpartum depression was highest in the 3 to 6 months after the child’s birth. Interestingly, researchers also noted a correlation to the depression severity within the family. It seems that the new fathers were more likely to experience paternal postnatal depression if the child’s mother also went through postpartum depression.
New Father Depression Symptoms
The indicators of postpartum depression in men are similar to those experienced by women. New father depression symptoms can include some or most of the following:
- Anger, frustration, mood swings
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Poor memory, unable to concentrate
- Fear that you can’t take care of yourself, your baby, or your baby’s mother
- Low energy, diminished libido
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Feelings of guilt or inability to bond with your child
- Feeling helpless, sad, or hopeless
- Physical pain, such as gastrointestinal problems or headaches
- Lack of interest in your normal activities
- Poor hygiene, unmotivated to perform personal care routines
Don’t Ignore Paternal Postpartum Depression
Your depression can have a long-term effect on your marriage or relationship, and on your child. There is research that shows the children of men with postpartum depression can have a reduced vocabulary at age two and can have behavioral and emotional issues, as well. Additionally, men with postpartum depression are less apt to spend time playing with or reading to their kids and are more likely to spank their child.
As with women, untreated PPND can last for a long time. Treatment for this type of depression is most likely to involve cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy. If needed, it may also include anti-depressant medications.
Even though much is not yet known about paternal postpartum depression, it helps to know there is such a disorder and that you are not alone. It is normal for men to need time to adjust to a new baby, just the same as it is for the new mother. Because men are not as likely as women to seek help, if you or your partner are experiencing some of the new father depression symptoms listed above, it would be wise to speak with a licensed mental health professional who works with men. Remember: it is not a weakness to seek help. Instead, it shows the strength of your commitment to yourself and your family.
Let Us Help
If you are a new father and are going through the symptoms of paternal postnatal depression, the professionals at The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida can help. To get answers to your questions or for more information, contact us or call us today at 561-496-1094.