Every day, over 1,000 new dads in the US become depressed. According to some studies, that number is as high as 2,700. That’s 1 in 10, and possibly as many as 1 in 4, new dads who have postpartum depression. Whatever the exact number is, at Westchester Health Pediatrics we know that a lot of fathers are suffering from this difficult condition.
A serious, often overlooked, illness
Although postpartum depression in new moms is well known, it’s much less acknowledged that fathers can also become depressed after their baby’s birth. Often, the first few months are filled with the joy of a new baby, but after that, things can get tough for many men. Studies show that depression among dads seems to peak 3-6 months after their baby is born, a crucial time when they should be bonding with their baby but instead, they may feel distant and unconnected.
Postpartum depression in dads or PPND (Paternal Postnatal Depression) is a very serious condition. Depression isn’t something a person can simply “get over.” It’s a health condition that needs to be treated, just like a heart condition or an injured knee. Without effective treatment, PPND can result in damaging, long-term consequences for a man, his baby and his entire family. But with proper treatment and support, men can fully recover from PPND.
Symptoms of paternal postnatal depression (PPND)
Men and women can experience depression very differently. According to the Pacific Post Partum Support Society, here are some symptoms that are common in men suffering from PPND:
- Increased anger and conflict with others
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Frustration or irritability
- Violent behavior
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Change in appetite
- Isolation from family and friends, withdrawal
- Easily stressed
- Impulsiveness or risk-taking (including reckless driving or extramarital affairs)
- Feeling discouraged, cynicism
- Headaches or stomach problems
- Problems with concentration or motivation
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex
- Working constantly
- Fatigue, low energy
- Crying for no reason
- Sadness lasting more than 2-3 weeks
- Sleep problems
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Causes of PPND
Exactly why dads become depressed is not fully understood and there is no single reason. Some of the factors that can contribute to depression in new or soon-to-be fathers, says the PPPSS, include:
- Loss of sleep
- Colicky, constantly-crying newborn
- Personal/family history of depression
- Financial worries
- Feeling overwhelmed in your role as a father
- Lack of social and/or emotional support
- Stress in relationship with partner and/or family
- Lack of sex with partner
- Stressful birthing experience
- Feeling excluded from the bond between mom and baby
Tips for dealing with PPND
- Talk to friends or co-workers who are also new parents. They may be facing some of the same challenges as you.
- Take care of yourself. Make time to do things that you enjoy.
- Make an effort to talk with your partner, even if it’s just a few minutes each day, to connect and work on your relationship.
- Don’t expect to fix everything. Things will go wrong, problems will come up that you won’t be able to solve. Accept that this is okay.
- If possible, try to take some time off work.
- Find someone you trust whom you can talk honestly with about your experiences. This can be your partner, a family member, friend or counselor.
- Keep yourself healthy. Eat well, exercise and see your family doctor if you have any health concerns.
How to get help…which will benefit you, your partner and especially your baby
Research shows that a dad’s postpartum depression has a negative and long-term impact on the psychological, social and behavioral development of his kids, especially boys. It affects children as young as two, all the way through adolescence and into young adulthood.
If you feel you could be experiencing paternal postpartum depression, it’s very important to get help from a mental health professional. Support groups, and in some cases, medication, can also be very helpful.
Count on us for all kinds of information and advice to help you raise your baby
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Whether you’re a new parent or an old hand, we’ve got years and years of experience helping parents take care of their children and we’re ready to help you with yours.
Helpful articles you might want to read:
- Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Men
- Helping Men Beat The Baby Blues And Overcome Depression
Want to know more about male postpartum depression? Come see us.
If you, your partner, or someone you know is experiencing postpartum depression, please make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. We’re here for you to talk to, and if need be, we can refer you to a mental health professional. As well as helping you raise a happy, healthy baby, we’ll do everything we can to support you and your mental and physical health. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.