Fathers Can Also Experience Postpartum Depression
Welcoming a new baby home may be the most magical time of your life. However, newborn infants can present unexpected challenges. Many are aware of changes that mothers undergo after pregnancy including baby blues and postpartum depression. But what few folks talk about is paternal postpartum depression. Yes, fathers can feel down and blue too! Having a newborn requires all-hands-on-deck to handle the middle of the night feedings, hours of rocking the baby back to sleep, and frequent dirty diaper changes.
In our society, men are expected to be unemotional and tough. Phrases such as the “man of the house” often hinder men from sharing their emotions. However, many men experience paternal postpartum depression. Studies have shown that one out of every four men experiences paternal postpartum depression within the first year after the birth of a child. Furthermore, half of fathers will become depressed if their partner is also experiencing postpartum depression.
Common Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can present in many ways. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Anger, aggression, or frequent outbursts
- Withdrawing from normal hobbies, responsibilities, or loved ones
- Avoiding home and working longer hours
- Feeling discouraged, frustrated, or resentful
- Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
Feeling Left Out
One of the most common reasons men experience postpartum depression can be a feeling of being left out. Before becoming a new dad, he may have been used to getting all his partner’s attention. Now the whole world seems to revolve around the little one leaving dad feeling ignored. Mothers tend to bond faster with their newborns than fathers. This is natural since the woman has been nourishing the developing child for nine months, not to mention enduring labor and giving birth. Other factors that play a role in postpartum depression include inadequate sleep and lack of intimacy. Paternal postpartum depression has also been associated with unemployment, financial insecurity, past traumatic events, lack of social support, maternal mental illness, and the feelings of inadequate knowledge on how to nurture a child.
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
While social norms taught men that emotions are to be endured in silence, recent evidence suggests this only makes matters worse. Becoming a father can be trying at times. It is important to be patient with oneself and your partner. It is also important to seek help if needed. In a recent study, men with postpartum depression got significant benefits from attending individual, couple, or group therapy sessions. Additionally, other treatment options that have been shown to improve symptoms include medications that can be provided by a healthcare professional. If you feel that you are experiencing paternal postpartum depression do not hesitate to reach out to your provider to get support.
Self-care can improve mental health and reduce symptoms of postpartum depression. As a new dad, it is important to take care of yourself. Ways to do this include making sure you eat a healthy diet and finding time for exercise. It is always best to avoid reckless behaviors including excessive alcohol consumption, recreational drugs, and gambling. Finally, make sure to talk about your emotions with your spouse, friend, parent, or health care provider.
Local Support for Fathers
- Fathers For Lifetime
- Parenting U
- Putting Kids First: Parenting Class
- Fathering Together
- Fatherhood P3
- Heartland Family Service
- Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska
Written in collaboration with medical student, Brittaney Wells.
Terence Zach, MD, is a professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Creighton University School of Medicine.