Dads Aren’t Immune to Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that can take hold after the birth of a child. It is much more common in women. Yet it may well strike upward of one-quarter of dads. A recent review looked at the latest research on the mood disorder to better explain how it affects men.
An unnoticed condition
For their review, researchers examined 63 past studies on postpartum depression in men. They revealed some notable findings. Namely, the condition may not be as rare in men as once thought. Rather, it may simply go unnoticed.
Why might the condition be missed? Doctors may not be screening dads for the disorder. Such screening may be reserved only for moms. What’s more, men may avoid talking about their feelings. They may be embarrassed or ashamed.
The researchers also noticed that certain men are more likely to develop postpartum depression. These are often dads whose partners already have the mood disorder. Men with a history of depression or anxiety are also prone to it. Other triggers may include a lack of social support, financial worries, older age, and marital discord.
Untreated, postpartum depression may last months after the birth of a child. It can cause marital and family problems. It can even affect the child, stunting emotional and behavioral growth.
Experts don’t know exactly what causes postpartum depression. In women, it may partly be linked to hormonal changes. The hormones estrogen and progesterone plunge after childbirth. This drop can alter chemicals in the brain, leading to mood swings. In men, other triggers, such as a lack of sleep and mounting stress, may play a part.
Men and women with postpartum depression can suffer from the same symptoms. In men, though, the signs may not be as obvious. They may include:
Feelings of sadness, despair, or hopelessness
Extreme irritability, anger, or anxiety
Changes in appetite
A lack of interest in once-favorite activities
Fatigue or low energy
Drug or alcohol abuse
Withdrawal from friends and family, especially the newborn child
Unexplained aches and pains, such as headaches
Digestive problems, such as heartburn, nausea, or constipation
Postpartum depression also tends to start later in men. Women usually develop it a few weeks after giving birth. A man may not show signs until much later, often after his partner already has it.
Learn more about depression in men.
Treating Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is often treated like other types of depression. The standard approach may include medicine, such as an antidepressant. Counseling, behavioral therapy, and support groups may help, too.
Treatment may also focus on addressing the cause of a man’s depression. For example, some men may feel overwhelmed by parenthood. They may question their ability to be a good father. Teaching parenting skills to these men may help ease their depression. It may also help the child.
March 21, 2017
An Integrative Review of Paternal Depression. K.L. Edward, et al. American Journal of Men’s Health. 2015;9(1):26-34., Gender Differences in Postpartum Depression: A Longitudinal Cohort Study. V. Escriba-Aguir and L. Artazcoz. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 2011;65(4):320-26., Paternal Postpartum Depression: What Health Care Providers Should Know. A. Musser, et al. Journal of Pediatric Health Care. 2013;27(6):479-85., Psychosocial Factors Associated with Paternal Postnatal Depression. F. deMontigny, et al. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2013;150(1):44-9.
Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN