Can Men Get Postpartum Depression Too?
Many people may wonder whether or not men can suffer from postpartum depression. In reality, men are susceptible to developing a depressive disorder during their partner’s pregnancy and/or after the birth of the new baby.
Unfortunately, there is not much awareness surrounding postpartum depression in men because it is not as common as PPD in women, and the condition often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Thankfully, the medical community is becoming more aware of PPD developing in men. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article in 2020 about the importance of providing mental health screening to both new parents, not just the woman that gave birth.
Approximately 25% of new fathers will suffer from symptoms of postpartum depression; however, only about 10% of cases get recorded. The condition in men is known as paternal postpartum depression (PPPD) or paternal postnatal depression (PPND).
If you suspect you or your loved one is suffering from paternal postpartum depression, educate yourself on the symptoms and treatment options available for new fathers. You can also share your concerns with your doctor or healthcare provider, who may provide a depression screening (much like a questionnaire) to determine whether or not you or your partner has developed paternal postpartum depression.
Symptoms of Paternal Postpartum Depression
The first step in getting help for paternal postpartum depression is knowing the broad range of symptoms that can affect new dads.
Knowing the difference between paternal postpartum depression symptoms and “baby blues” symptoms is also essential.
The “baby blues” is prevalent in new parents. Like new mothers, fathers often feel stressed, overwhelmed, or tired—especially if this is his first experience with fatherhood. However, the symptoms usually go away within a few days once the father can take time for himself, exercise, or visit friends.
Paternal postpartum depression symptoms are much more severe and long-lasting. They do not go away just by getting out of the house.
Common symptoms of paternal postpartum depression include:
- Withdrawing socially
- Trying to focus more on work or other distractions
- Consistently low energy and fatigue
- Feeling unmotivated
- Loss of interest in hobbies and regular activities
- Changes in sleep, weight, and appetite
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Headaches and stomach aches
- Feeling easily stressed or frustrated
- Violent or aggressive behavior
- Impulsive and risky behavior
- Anger and irritability
These symptoms may occur at any point during the first year after the baby is born, and this time frame is known as the postnatal period.
Paternal Postpartum Depression Risk Factors in Men
Men who suffer from paternal postpartum depression may not understand how it developed. Like maternal depression, many potential risk factors contribute to perinatal depression in expecting or new fathers, from sleep deprivation to preexisting mental illness.
The risk factors of paternal postpartum depression include:
- A continual lack of sleep
- Hormonal changes (e.g., lower prolactin or testosterone levels)
- High-stress lifestyle, including career and family
- Relationship tension with their partner
- Poor relationship with in-laws
- Lack of support from his parents
- Being part of a non-standard family (i.e., unmarried men or stepfathers)
- Financial stress
- History of depression
- Feeling excluded from the bond between mother and child
One of the most significant risk factors for paternal postpartum depression is the development of postpartum depression in the mother. Half of all men with a partner suffering from postpartum depression will show signs of depression as well.
Diagnosing Paternal Postpartum Depression in Men
Men often have a difficult time discussing their postpartum depression symptoms. This difficulty is more common if their partner, the mother, is also suffering from PPD. In these cases, many men hide their feelings to reduce the burden of their partner’s condition. Men may also feel ashamed of and confused by their postpartum symptoms, so they might be reluctant to seek medical help.
In any case, it is complex to diagnose postpartum depression in men. However, reaching a diagnosis and seeking help is critical for the couple’s relationship and the child’s future.
Treatment for Men with Paternal Postpartum Depression
Men with paternal postpartum depression must be equally proactive in seeking help and treatment options. Men should know that what they are experiencing is normal. There is no shame in feeling depression or anxiety after the birth of a child, as it is a huge lifestyle change that brings extreme emotional shifts.
Like women, men have access to PPD medications like antidepressants. Men should also explore other avenues of psychiatry, including counseling, psychotherapy (i.e., “talk therapy”), or support from other mental health professionals.
There are many postpartum depression support groups available that cater specifically to men. These groups provide a safe space for men to talk about their concerns and feel understood by others with similar experiences. Men can also participate in family-oriented support groups, such as postpartum support groups for couples, to help learn healthy coping and relationship skills while enjoying the social support these groups provide.
Self-Help for Men with Paternal Postpartum Depression
Self-help practices are excellent ways to reduce stress and depression symptoms.
Examples of self-help practices include:
- Regular exercise
- Healthy eating
- Getting enough sleep
- Practicing yoga or mindfulness
Men should also strive for open communication about their feelings, so they do not become closed off and worsen their condition.
Paternal postpartum depression can be a severe condition, but it is treatable. Seeking professional help is often not enough. Implementing self-care practices helps men go the extra mile to recover from their depression. Like women, men deserve recovery for their health and the health of their families.