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Postpartum depression (PPD) is commonly associated with new mothers, and support for women with PPD is readily available. However, emerging evidence suggests that 10 percent of new fathers also experience the “baby blues.” Postpartum depression in dads is more likely to occur if the dad has a history of depression or if he is feeling stressed in his marriage or about becoming a father. When a father has PPD, the whole family suffers.

Why does PPD in dads go unrecognized so often? After the birth of a new child, mothers typically meet regularly with their OB-GYN and the child’s pediatrician. These opportunities allow mothers to talk about how they are feeling. However, fathers often return to work immediately or soon after a baby is born and do not have the opportunity to speak with medical professionals.

Fathers also might not recognize that what they’re feeling is actually depression that would benefit from treatment. Media stories about PPD in fathers are rare, so many dads might not even be aware such a condition exists. Typical depressive symptoms are: depressed mood most of the day, decreased interest in activities including sex, changes in weight (gain or loss), changes in sleep (waking up during the night with difficulty falling back to sleep or sleeping more than usual), agitation, lethargy, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of death. A father need not experience all of these symptoms to be considered depressed.

Just as with moms, dads experiencing PPD need support. Informal support—from friends and family—is important, but if a father is experiencing symptoms of PPD for greater than two weeks, he should seek a doctor specializing in mood disorders, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health counselor, and schedule a check-up with his physician.

Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” has been shown to be an effective treatment for depression. If symptoms and mood do not improve following treatment, a psychologist may advise dad to consult a psychiatrist for a medical consultation.  Many patients report that the combination of talk therapy and medications, or “therapy through medication,” is beneficial in helping to improve their mood and return to their normal activities.

Family therapy is another option for treatment of PPD. Family therapists teach couples communication strategies that can benefit the whole family. If you or your partner is experiencing symptoms of PPD, don’t wait to get help.  Talk to someone you trust and get the support you deserve. Treatment is strongly recommended before the birth of the baby if there is a history of depression or marital issues or if dad feels stressed about fatherhood. Parents, take care of yourself so you are better able to care for your newborn.

Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, January 2019

Takeaways

  • 10 percent of new dads experience postpartum depression.
  • Due to the low amount of cases, many dads don’t know that what they are experiencing could be postpartum depression.
  • If seeking help, look toward a psychiatrist, psychologist, or even family therapy.
  • If there is a history of depression, look to get some sort of treatment before the baby is born.

References

  1. Letourneu N, Tryphonopoulos PD, Duffett-Leger L, Stewart M, Benzies K, Dennis CL, Joschko J. Support intervention needs and preferences of fathers affected by postpartum depression.  J perinat Neonatal nurs. 2012; 26(1): 69-80.
  2. Ramchandani PG, Psychogiou L, Vlachos H, Iles J, Sethna V, Nesti, E, Lodder A. Paternal depression: an examination of its links with father, child and family functioning in the postnatal period.  Depress Anxiety. 2011; 28(6): 471-7.
  3. Paulson JF, Bazemore SD.  Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: a meta-analysis.  JAMA. 2010; 303(19): 1961-9.
  4. Psychology Today. Find a Therapist.

Comments

  1. Well after reading this I feel very lucky I have never experienced any form of postpartum depression. I guess I’m happy in my marriage!!!!!! I hope my wife reads this. ….. Major points! !!

    Reply
  2. This is such a great topic to discuss. The top reason is because it is real. Women have PPD because of hormonal changes and obviously a drastic change in their life. Well why dont we pay attention to the men, the fathers? They sometimes need more help and attention than the pregnant or new/recent mom. They feel as if they are now on the back burner and they dont count. Or they are nervous or scared. Maybe they worry if they can provide or care for their “new” family. It was easier when they knew what they were up against. Now there is another human being, and a very tiny one at that, to take care of. Men get scared too. My husband and I separated shortly after my sons birth and then divorced. He had PPD for sure. I knew he was depressed and I knew he needed help. I tried to convince him of this and explain it was ok to feel this way. He didnt think so. Well now he is married again and just recently had another baby. Guess what? He is depressed again. It is very sad and I know what his new wife is going through. This is real and men should acknowledge it. It is nothing to be shy about or embarrassed of. Our feeling are our feelings and they are real.

    Reply
    1. Great point! Yes, PPD is very real. Unfortunately guys do not always feel they “should” get PPD or want to admit to it, so they do not always reach out for the assistance that could benefit them most. PPD has mostly been considered only something women struggle with. This is simply not the case.

      Reply

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