Fact or Fiction? Men Can Experience Postpartum Depression
Can men suffer from postpartum depression? The concept might seem a little farfetched at first glance considering that PPD in women is often associated with dramatic changes in hormones and sleep deprivation. About 15-40% of moms suffer from PPD…but dads, too? Yes, in fact medical professionals are finding that some men experience a version of postpartum.
What is Postpartum Depression?
It’s estimated that 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression, which can begin shortly after birth and up to 12 months after. Postpartum differs from what’s commonly called the “baby blues,” which is characterized by mood swings such as happy to sad and excited to scared, and generally feeling irritable and overwhelmed. An average of 80% of new mothers report experiencing baby blues through the 4th trimester.
After all, you’re welcoming a new little person into your life, and you and your partner are entirely responsible for them. Not to mention that new being needs your constant care and attention all while you’re not getting much sleep. Your social life may fall by the wayside and it can be hard to focus at work when you’re thinking about your baby or wondering how much sleep you’re going to get that night. That’s enough for anyone to feel bummed out and overwhelmed. But postpartum depression is more than just feeling exhausted or overwhelmed.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe and last longer than the baby blues. PPD is marked by a sense of worthlessness, feelings of severe dread, losing pleasure in activities that were once joyful, and feelings of hopelessness. In extreme cases women may experience anxiety attacks and thoughts of suicide.
Although it’s a common issue, there’s actually no consensus on what causes PPD. Some doctors theorize it’s caused by hormonal shifts while others point to triggers like sleep deprivation and a newborn’s crying.
Care providers and hospitals are actively screening new mothers for postpartum depression. However, fathers are usually left out of the equation…and their symptoms manifest differently.
How Can Men Have Postpartum Depression?
According to a recently published study in the journal Hormones and Behavior, there is a correlation between testosterone levels and postpartum depression in fathers. The men who had lower levels of testosterone were more likely to experience the symptoms of postpartum depression.
What Does PPD Look Like in Men?
PPD in men is marked by irritability, anger, aggressive behavior, and anxiety. Men suffering from postpartum depression may begin drinking, working more or even exhibiting violent behavior. They’re also more likely to experience physical pains that have no underlying cause like headaches or stomach problems.
Combatting Societal and Cultural Expectations
While researchers point to hormone imbalances as one of the causes of postpartum depression, it’s important to look at the whole picture. Dads today are active parents, heavily involved in their children’s lives (a vast difference from fathers a generation ago). With that welcome change, there’s added pressure and uncertainty on how to tackle fatherhood. It can be difficult to be the father you want to be when you didn’t have that modeled for you in childhood. This can lead to intense feelings of insecurity and guilt along with their new dad role. Are you doing enough? Does your baby love you? Is your partner happy?
And of course, there’s the ever-pervasive idea that men asking for help with mental illness isn’t “manly.” This cultural idea may keep men from seeking professional help. Many dads also worry that they’re taking attention away from their partners who may be struggling with the transition to motherhood. In fact, a man is twice as likely to develop postpartum depression if his wife is depressed, according to a 2004 study.
What to Do If You or Your Partner Suffers from Postpartum Depression
If you suspect you or your partner are suffering from postpartum depression, it’s important to get professional help. Visit your doctor and tell them about your feelings. As awareness grows, dads who are suffering from PPD can get the help they need and deserve.
Talk with Your Primary Care Provider
If you are questioning your mental health or are experiencing any symptoms of depression, talk with your main care provider. They can give you the assistance you need whether it’s suggesting a mental health professional, medication or emotional support.
Communication with your partner is extremely vital during this transition in your life. Keep an open line and talk through your feelings during this big change.
Create a Support System
Navigating parenthood is hard, but it doesn’t need to be done alone. Team up with your partner and ask for help when you need it from friends and family. Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially in those early sleep-deprived days.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms and are wondering if you may have postpartum depression, take this free quiz.