Postpartum depression in mothers is a very common phenomenon; however, very few people are aware of the fact that fathers also suffer from postpartum depression. Paternal Postnatal Depression or PPND is a very common disorder occurring in males post the birth of a baby. According to estimates approximately 25% of new fathers suffer from PPND. It is a serious, though treatable illness. However, if not managed properly, PPND may result in long lasting consequences for the father, his baby and the overall family.
What Are the Signs of Postpartum Depression in Men?
The symptoms of PPND appear gradually in comparison to symptoms of maternal postpartum depression. However, symptoms of depression may occur any time in new dads after the birth of the child.
According to experts, PPND symptoms are quite similar to but not same as signs and symptoms of maternal postpartum depression. Depression symptoms in a mother are categorized as a major episode of depression if they begin with 4 weeks of delivery of baby. However, no diagnostic criterion is yet established for postnatal depression in men.
In case you are suffering from PPND, you can have the following symptoms:
Sadness and hopelessness
Feeling of tiredness majority of the time
Not able to cope with the situation
Feeling of guilt about not loving or caring your baby or not able to cope with the birth of your child
Increased or decreased appetite
Increased anxiety about tiny things such as being alone with your baby in the house
You can also have:
A lot of crying episodes
Irrational or obsessive thoughts
Trouble staying or falling asleep
Trouble in taking decisions
Thoughts of death
Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
Obsessive thoughts about health of your own self, your baby or other members of the family
Some other symptoms are:
Loss of interest in activities
Eating due to stress instead of hunger
Acting indifferent or hostile to your partner or baby
Developing new symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches
It’s important that you visit your physician if you feel that you are not like your usual self.
What Causes Postpartum Depression in Men?
PPND in new dads may occur due to interplay of various factors including:
Lack of sleep: Sleep deprivation plays a major role in the development of symptoms of depression and anxiety. Majority of the new parents underestimate the fact that they are sleep-deprived to such as extent to develop postpartum depression in both males and females.
Adjusting psychologically to parenthood: It is a great deal to become a parent. It needs excellent coping skills, which for many new dads and for that matter moms can become quite overwhelming.
Family or personal history of anxiety or depression: A family or personal history of any mental illness including depression raises your risk of developing PPND.
Hormones: According to research, after the arrival of a new baby, there is a shift in not only a mother’s hormones but also a father’s hormones. The levels of testosterone decreases and the levels of estrogen increases; in men, lower testosterone levels are accompanied by symptoms of depression. Moreover, the rising levels of estrogen make the men with PPND more weepy and emotional.
Depressed partner or spouse: Approximately 50% or males who have a depressed spouse or partner also have depression.
Stress of a relationship: Unstable relationship is the number one cause of postnatal depression in females and the stress of a relationship also increases the risk of depression in males.
Feeling disengaged or disconnected from the partner or baby: Fathers also want to be a part of the whole experience. However, quite often they feel as an outsider. Sometimes, mothers exclude fathers from caring and helping for the baby, being afraid that he will do it the wrong way. Moreover, females are so occupied in caring and bonding with the baby, they fail to give time to their husbands.
Certain other factors, which may lead to postpartum depression in men are: Recent trauma or loss, financial stress or work stress, unplanned pregnancy, colicky baby and family stress or other life stress.
What Are the Complications?
Similar to postnatal depression in mothers, untreated PPND may have significant harmful consequences for the whole family. According to research, PPND is accompanied with:
Poorer practices of parenting
Decreased attention to health of the baby and well-check advice/visits
Increased risk of problems with behavior in children of preschool age-group
Children who have increased incidence of mental and physical health problems
Poorer marital and family relationships
Generally, depression, if not treated, worsens and can impact your career, marriage and entire family. Depression if present in fathers is directly related to depression in moms. When both parents of a child suffer from depression, it may cause a significant impact on bonding, parenting and overall development of a child. Hence, getting appropriate treatment for your depression is important.
How Is Postpartum Depression in Men Treated?
The initial step in managing postpartum depression is to recognize the symptoms and take them seriously. Taking the diagnosis seriously is imperative not only for your recovery but also to maintain the health of your whole family.
Get support and search resources. Your spouse/partner, friends or family is an excellent place to begin when looking for support. Having 1 or 2 individuals you trust can make a huge difference while you recover. Get all the knowledge you can about PPND and its treatment.
Work together as a family to sleep as much as you can as you need optimum amount of sleep to function normally. You can work together as a couple and help each other sleep/rest as much as possible.
Do take a break as required. Take some time out for yourselves every day.
Spend time being involved with your baby. Help with dressing, bathing, feeding whenever possible. Cuddle, hold or gaze your baby. All these actions promote a strong connection and bond between you and your baby.
Spend some time together with your spouse as a couple. Understand that sex do change after baby comes, but it’s common and it gets better with time. Even spending some minutes talking, doing something together you enjoy or holding each other may make you stay connected to each other.
Get professional help. If you don’t feel better by self help, then seek treatment by a professional. Psychotherapy can effectively treat depression. You can also opt for couple’s therapy if both you and your partner are having depression. You may also require medicine. There are many alternative and complimentary therapies available. You should discuss with your physician about the treatment option that is right for you.