Postpartum depression may be associated with new moms, but did you know dads can get it, too? It’s estimated that one in ten fathers experience postpartum depression, yet it’s extremely rare for them to talk about it.
Here, we’ll look at what male postpartum depression is, its symptoms and the help available if you, or your partner, are experiencing it.
What Is Male Postpartum Depression?
Male postpartum depression is basically the same type of depression experienced by new moms. It can present itself in several ways and most often it appears to affect younger men in their 20’s, though it can develop at any age.
It’s also referred to as paternal depression or postnatal depression. While it can develop for no logical reason at all, a lot of the time it is brought on by a partner’s own battle with postpartum depression, or due to the stress of having a new baby.
Many people overlook the additional stress a new baby places on the father. Concern and attention from friends and relatives is typically directed to the mom, while the dad gets left out. However, many new fathers are responsible for providing for the family financially which in itself can be tough, along with the mood swings and decline in the relationship which often happens when baby comes along.
There’s also the lack of sleep, which can contribute towards depression and irritability.
What Are The Symptoms?
A lot of men suffering with postpartum depression go undiagnosed due to the stigma attached to talking about male mental health. It can also be pretty tough to determine the issue given the fact that having a new baby can naturally bring additional stress and anxiety. So, how can you determine whether the negative feelings you or your partner are facing are normal or actually down to postpartum depression?
While each father will experience slightly different symptoms, the main symptoms of male postpartum depression include:
- Constant fatigue and lack of motivation to do anything
- Wanting to, or actually crying a lot
- Overwhelming anxiety
- Feeling of inadequacy
- Feelings of guilt
- Obsessive fears about baby’s health
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
- Suicidal thoughts
As you can see, some symptoms are a lot scarier than others. Each man will experience postpartum depression differently and it can vary a lot in severity. Thoughts of suicide, harming the baby and obsessive fears about baby’s health are relatively rare, but they are obviously extremely worrying. If you or your partner have felt this way, it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Medications can be described to help banish these thoughts and fight the depression.
There are many more symptoms not listed above, so the advice to dads would be if you don’t feel like yourself, go and get checked out by a doctor. Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if you’re having scary thoughts, you’re not going to be judged when you seek help and it’s more common than you might think. You just need to remember it’s not you, it’s the depression talking.
Are Some Men More At Risk Than Others?
Currently, medical experts are only just starting to understand male postpartum depression. However, there are certain risk factors which have been identified which may contribute to your chances of developing the condition.
Most risk factors appear to be related to personal circumstances. Problems sleeping, a strained relationship with either your spouse, parents or parents-in-law, and a lack of support can all contribute towards depression. If there’s financial issues this can also play a major part in postpartum depression.
It’s not just personal circumstances which pose a bigger risk however. Men who have a history of depression are also more at risk than others. It can also be linked to a change in hormones. Perhaps the most compelling risk however, is if your partner has postpartum depression. Experts have found that up to 50% of men who have a spouse dealing with postpartum depression, also develop the condition.
Often, it isn’t just one of these risk factors which leads to male postpartum depression, it’s more likely a combination of factors.
Can Male Postpartum Depression Be Prevented?
As male postpartum depression is often related to personal circumstances, there are sometimes steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing the condition. Perhaps the most beneficial preventative measure is to ensure you have plenty of support around you.
Chatting with your partner before baby is born and coming up with a parenting plan is a great way to ensure you both feel supported after the birth. Communication is key so making sure you talk to your partner about how you’re feeling will also help, rather than trying to bottle it up.
Obviously, some personal circumstances are hard to change such as finances. So, it could help to find out exactly what financial help you’re entitled to and come up with a financial plan you can stick to once baby arrives.
It’s also important to note that the earlier you detect postpartum depression, the easier it will be to treat. So, the first time you suspect something is wrong, reach out to your doctor and let them know how you’re feeling.
How Is Male Postpartum Depression Treated?
If it turns out you or your partner does have postpartum depression, the first step is to talk to your doctor. They can help put you in touch with the right support, or if the problem is severe, prescribe medication which could help.
It’s important to avoid turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking as this will only make the depression worse. Exercise is one of the best coping strategies you can use so if you do start to feel low or stressed, head out for a run, hit the gym or get out on a push bike.
You may also find it useful to try and meet other dads. Being able to share your experiences or just let off steam with other men in the same situation can be a huge help. Just like moms need support from other moms, dads need it, too.
If the depression is linked to you feeling guilty for not bonding with baby, try to make the extra effort to spend time with them. Changing diapers, giving them a bottle or just cuddling baby will help you to develop a strong bond. The main thing you need to remember is that bonding with baby doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s natural for many fathers to feel left out and not as close to their baby as they imagined they would be. Simply spending more time with them and remembering that you are important in their lives too can really help.
Overall, male postpartum depression is very real and it can have a devastating impact on new dads. The key is to ensure you seek help as soon as possible when you suspect something is wrong. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and is a lot more common than many men realize.
Have you or your partner been affected by postpartum depression? Share your story below!