The Daddy Blues: Postpartum Depression in Men

People often hear that postpartum depression affecting new mothers, but did you know it can also affect new fathers as well? Every day, after 1000 new dads in the United States becomes depressed and some studies are as high as 2,700.

Some of the signs of postpartum depression in men include a losing one’s sense of humor, despair, anxiety, irritability, and trouble sleeping. Even though the National Institute of Health studies show that paternal postpartum depression can affect new fathers from 4 to 25 percent, there is a lack of understanding it. The reason is that there is no standard diagnostic understanding of PPD. The most common diagnostic definition of PPD comes from the description used to diagnosed postpartum depression in women. Maternal PPD is diagnosed as a major depressive episode with an onset in the first month after birth.

According to Dr. Courtenay, a leading psychologist in the field of masculinity, depression looks different in men than women. Some men may show traditional signs of sadness; new days may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or full-blown panic attacks. They may also lose interest in sex, feel worthless, and or engage in risky behaviors such as alcohol and drugs, extramarital affairs, and gambling.

There are many reasons why PPD happens to men. Mothers aren’t the only ones who have hormonal changes when a new child comes into the world. Men too also experience hormonal changes. These changes include an increase in estrogen and a decrease in testosterone. Some men also experience nausea and weight gain. According to Dr. Courtenay, “Evolutionary biologists suspect that the hormone fluctuation is nature’s way of making fathers stick around and bond with the baby.” The probability also increases when the father’s partner experiences postpartum depression. In one study, having a partner experiencing postpartum depression increases the likelihood of PPD in fathers by 2.5 times.

Other experts also believe that paternal postpartum depression is more prevalent now because this generation of fathers are shouldering the same social, economic, and psychological stressors that new mothers have long experienced. During the recession, eighty percent of people who lost their jobs were men according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also, with more mothers working, dads are stepping up to the responsibility for childcare and household tasks that traditionally fell to women.

Even mild depression to moderate depression can have severe effects on kids. It is well known that dads who are depressed are less involved with their kids, and can lead to mild language delays, disruptive behaviors, or a higher rate of social and emotional issues later in life.

Here are some signs to watch for if you believe you’re baby daddy is suffering from PPD:

  • Has he become uncharacteristically irritable or aggravated?

  • Is he distancing himself from you and your child?

  • Is he behaving in reckless behavior such as drugs, gambling, and/or drinking?

  • Does he or his family have a personal history of depression?

  • Is he sad, tearful, or uninterested in things he used to enjoy?

  • Does he feel worthless or does he make comments relating to suicide?

  • Does he spend more time at work than unusual?

  • Do you suffer from PPD as well?

If you’re a new Dad and have been feeling down more than usual, here are some ways to help yourself:

  • Go to therapy. Sometimes it’s best to talk to someone to someone who can objectively look at your situation and offer guidance on how to get out of your funk.

  • Treat the birth of your child like New Year’s Day. The birth of a child is a new beginning. Set goals to take care of yourself by eating better, exercising more, or just exploring nature.

  • Medication- I’m not talking about self—medication, but prescription. Medications such as antidepressants, don’t take away the sadness but can help buoy difficult emotions.

Postpartum depression doesn’t only affect new moms but can affect new dads as well. If you’re a new dad, and you’ve been feeling unusually down, I encourage you to tell your loved ones and get some help.

Rosen, M. D. (2015, June 11). Sad Dads. Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://www.parents.com/parenting/dads/sad-dads/

Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Men. (n.d.). Retrieved January 14, 2018, from http://postpartum.org/services/dads/signs-of-ppd-anxiety-in-men/

Yes, Fathers Can Get Postpartum Depression. Here’s How To Deal With It. (2017, May 12). Retrieved January 14, 2018, from https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/yes-fathers-can-get-postpartum-depression-heres-deal/