We have all heard many stories (among friends, on social media, or perhaps, even in celebrity magazines) of women experiencing postpartum depression. But, what is not common to hear is about the father’s postpartum depression or diagnosed as DPPP (paternal postpartum depression).
The father’s postpartum depression is a very real fact: a recent study found that the numbers of postpartum depression among new parents increased by 68% during their children’s first five years of life , a pivotal moment when it comes to bond with the baby.
What little is known is that the father’s postpartum depression is not uncommon, and they are not alone. The fact is that out of every four new parents, one gets depressed, which is equivalent to 3,000 parents who suffer from postpartum depression each day.
Why does the Postpartum Depression of the Father Happen?
When a woman becomes pregnant, her hormones change dramatically throughout the gestation period, and continue to change after the baby arrives, but, did you know that men also experience hormonal changes?
The hormones of men change during pregnancy and after the birth of their babies. It is a double blow. Not only do testosterone levels decrease, but estrogen levels increase and so can postpartum depression in the father.
The researchers have not yet identified exactly what causes male testosterone to change during the transition to parenthood. Parents whose testosterone dropped more dramatically , reported feeling more depressed which triggered their father’s postpartum depression.
Previous research has linked testosterone to male depression levels in general. Low testosterone can contribute to feelings of lethargy and disinterest in normally pleasurable activities that characterize depression.
In fact, some psychiatrists suggest prescribing testosterone supplements to treat depression in men. However, no study has specifically examined the potential role of testosterone in parents’ postpartum depression.
The hormonal fluctuations and neurochemical changes that occur in the brain as a result of sleep deprivation, can be the perfect combination for postpartum depression in the father, which has its peak in the period of 3 to 6 months.
Although lack of sleep is probably the biggest culprit when it comes to the father’s postpartum depression, other possible causes include, case of previous depression, family history of illness, financial problems or stress, a sick, colicky or premature baby and the responsibility to create a new being.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression of the Father
The father’s postpartum depression usually looks different from the postpartum depression that happens in women. While some men have classic symptoms of sadness, others are irritated or agitated . In addition to these, parents may have:
- Obsessive thoughts;
- Chest pain and difficulty breathing
- Panic attacks;
- Feeling worthless;
- Inability to bond emotionally with the baby;
- Losing interest in sex or activities that used to bring joy;
- Having suicidal thoughts;
- Engage in risky behavior such as alcohol or drug abuse, gambling or extramarital affairs.
Individuals who suddenly start working 60 hours a week may also be depressed, as immersion in their work is how many men deal with stress.
The father’s greatest risk of postpartum depression is if the wife is also depressed. Half of all men whose partners experience postpartum depression are depressed.
Depression in both parents can result in devastating consequences for your relationship and especially for your children.
Our society lives under a cultural myth that men must be strong and supportive, so when they start to feel anxious, empty or out of control, they cannot understand the reason for this and certainly do not ask for help. Women, on the other hand, tend to have a larger social network and share stories and strategies during pregnancy and life as a mother.
Can Father’s Postpartum Depression Affect Children?
The father’s postpartum depression has a negative and long-term impact on his children’s psychological, social and behavioral development, especially for boys.
In a study conducted by Northwestern University, in the United States, it was found that the children of parents with postpartum depression can develop worrying behaviors, such as aggression, anxiety, sadness and even trigger negative attitudes, such as the habit of lying.
What to Do to Improve Father’s Postpartum Depression?
The following suggestions can be useful to support positive mental well-being for all parents:
- Men can sometimes feel uncomfortable with opening up their feelings, but it is so important that you seek the support you need. The father’s postpartum depression is a family problem. Talking to your partner on the subject in a comprehensive and open way, sharing your feelings does not mean that you are crying or complaining. It means that you recognize that there is a problem, and you do not want it to continue as it is. You and your partner need to be a team on this new journey.
- Try to take some time for yourself, maintaining involvement in hobbies, leisure time, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, anything that reduces stress can make a big difference in preventing and treating your father’s postpartum depression.
- Meet other parents who are in the same situation as yours. Parent groups are becoming more and more common as a place for men to share their thoughts and experiences of becoming a father.
- Feeling guilty for not loving your baby or feeling indifferent to them is a symptom of the father’s postpartum depression. Try to remember that you are important and special to your baby and, if you can, spend time doing simple things like bathing, changing your diaper or just playing with it. This can help you feel closer to your baby.
- Do some kind of exercise like walking, jogging, do some sport you like. Exercise can have a positive effect on mood and sense of well-being.
- It is also important to avoid getting around the situation with negative things, such as drinking too much or working hard and being away from home.
Sharing your thoughts and feelings, even though it can be very difficult, is probably the best thing you can do.
If you have tried to help yourself but are still feeling “down” and experiencing any of the above listed symptoms of father’s postpartum depression, then it is best to seek medical help and try other options.
There are several approaches to the treatment of father’s postpartum depression that include:
- Counseling and therapy
- Support groups for accredited parents
There may be less specialized services for men to deal with postnatal depression, but the doctor may be able to provide you with some information you may need to help you choose your treatment. Remembering that some people respond better to one method than the other.
Counseling and Therapy
Conversational treatments, such as counseling and psychotherapy, offer the opportunity to analyze the hidden factors that contributed to the father’s postpartum depression, in addition to helping him to change the way he feels.
The doctor may prescribe antidepressants that can help relieve many of the symptoms of postpartum depression in the moderate or severe father and give him some breathing space to adjust to the changes involved in becoming a father.
Antidepressants are prescribed for at least six months, often for longer, as they can take several weeks to reach full effectiveness. During this time, they may initially increase some of their symptoms, such as insomnia and anxiety.
Men with symptoms of their father’s postpartum depression may be reluctant to take medication due to fear of becoming addicted.
Support Groups for Accredited Parents
Supporting new parents in the right environment can be of great benefit to individuals affected by their father’s postpartum depression. Talking to someone who has been through what you are going through and who has recovered allows parents to see that they can improve
The big problem for men is taking depression seriously and being able to recognize what is really happening. The father’s postpartum depression is not a weakness, but a consequence of a major change that has taken place in his life.
Most parents want to get involved, but they don’t really know how to act and are uncertain what to do. All of this uncertainty can lead to anxiety, and we know that postpartum anxiety often leads to depression.
Although it is a very serious and sometimes life-threatening condition, with adequate treatment and support, men can fully recover from their father’s postpartum depression. Getting help can save a man’s life or his marriage.
See also: Baby Blues – Postpartum Sadness
My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.