Can Fathers Suffer from Postpartum Depression?
Most parents and pediatricians are familiar with the effects of childbirth and how it can contribute to depression with women. Severe bouts of depression after childbirth have been identified as Postpartum Depression (PPD).
Within women, PPD should be understood if not expected when you take a look at the radical and sudden changes a woman’s body experiences after pregnancy. When we further investigate and study postnatal depression, modern research has found that it is also prevalent in males.
In this article, we’ll take a look at Postpartum Depression and how it impacts fathers.
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Postpartum Depression is a form of depression associated with childbirth. Many women experience a brief form of depression following the birth of their child, but in more severe cases, it last several weeks or months, and this has been identified as postpartum depression. During this time, a mother may experience various symptoms, including mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, feeling overwhelmed, lack of concentration, problems eating and sleeping.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms in Men
Men exhibit depression differently and when it comes to PPD, it may also take a longer period of time to manifest. When it develops, there are some symptoms which are more prevalent with fathers, this includes anger, drinking, drug use, violence, weight loss, isolation, stress, loss of sex, hobbies and family, overworking and suicidal thoughts.
In this video, a father spoke about his difficult experience with PPD saying,
“The birth of the first child was quite traumatic. Dads aren’t allowed to talk about that the same way moms are… There was kind of a growing sense that I wasn’t doing the job that I thought I should be doing. That I wasn’t the type of dad I thought I would be. I was failing, I was letting everyone down. The one thing I was still doing was providing financially, but it got to a point, after the birth of our second child, even routine things at work were becoming enormously challenging. I felt that I wasn’t even able to provide… I got to point where I was crying in supermarkets and not really knowing why.”
In the past, it was thought that women were the only ones who experienced biological changes after childbirth, but more recent studies have shown that men experience hormonal changes.
The majority of men avoid seeking professional help because of societal norms which tell them to ‘tough it out.’
PPD in men is also linked to radical and impulsive behavior. This can include excessive gambling, the need to have an affair or sudden unplanned vacations — these are all associated with male depression.
Why Are Men Suddenly Being Diagnosed with PPD?
When men are exhibiting symptoms of depression and male PPD, not only are they often told by peers and family to work through it, no one is helping them make a diagnosis; many of these men are suffering in silence.
In this video, Dr. Will Courtney elaborated on some of the reasons why men experience PPD,
“It’s likely that sleep deprivation plays a major role. We know that when normal healthy adults go without sleep, they begin to show clinical signs of depression… Dads also experience hormonal changes before and after their child is born… not only do our testosterone levels go down our estrogen levels go up, and this can really wreak havoc on a man’s functioning and set the state for postpartum depression…
Dads are expected to be much more involved in parenting than ever before. Most dads I talk to say ‘Sure, I want to be involved!’ — What does that even mean? What does that even look like? Most of us had dads who had a complete hands-off approach to parenting. So that can leave dads really uncertain about what their suppose to do.”
Which Fathers Get PPD?
In the video, Dr. Courtenay also identified the types of men who are more susceptible to PPD saying,
“We suspect that men with a history of depression, anxiety about becoming a father, men who have a rocky relationship with their partners, economic stress and a sick or colicky baby can all be risk factors.”
Help For Men with PPD
Some of the things that anyone can do to fight depression is get involved in a regular exercise routine, meditate and keep in mind that the depression itself isn’t the problem. The issue is that most men don’t do anything about it.
The best thing any man can do when it comes to PPD is to seek the advice of his personal therapist — when it goes neglected, it can have a devastating effect on a man’s relationship with his wife, but it can also lead to suicide.
The first steps may be difficult and if men find themselves isolated, one of the best things to do is network with other fathers online. Websites like PostPartumMen.com have a number of online resources and links that will help you develop bonds with other fathers who’ve experienced what you’ve gone through.
Fathers shouldn’t feel ashamed. Admitting that they’re experiencing depression is healthy for them and their families. Identifying their problem is a form of masculinity and getting the necessary help will allow them to be better fathers, husbands, sons, and men.
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