Postpartum depression is a form of depression that can manifest soon after the birth of a baby. It is usually thought
of as a female condition that is triggered by the sudden hormonal changes that take place at childbirth. However, studies indicate that one in ten dads suffer from postpartum depression as well.
The birth of a baby changes family dynamics in a radical way. Caring for a newborn can be depleting. Getting used to disruptions in sleep patterns and adapting to new roles and responsibilities requires a big adjustment.
Parents often feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Most men have not been equipped with the coping skills they need to handle the transition, and don’t comprehend how tough parenting can be, or what normal newborn behavior is like.
Things to know about postpartum depression in men.
- Women are not the only ones susceptible to postpartum depression. Men can experience it as well.
- Men are more at risk for developing depression after the birth of a child than at any other time of life.
- Postpartum depression in men is often accompanied by anxiety.
- First time dads are the most vulnerable to male postpartum depression.
- Postpartum depression in men most commonly manifests three to six months after the baby is born, but it can also start during the last few months of the wife’s pregnancy or any time up to a year after the birth.
- Symptoms of postpartum depression in men are sometimes subtle or hard to recognize and may be mistaken for tiredness or stress.
- Symptoms of postpartum depression may manifest differently in men than in women and may last longer.
- Postpartum depression in men is often undiagnosed and untreated because men tend to deny they are having a problem and to hide their feelings out of embarrassment or shame.
- Postpartum depression in men is a legitimate condition that needs to be addressed. It’s not a sign of weakness and trying to tough it out may make it worse.
- Postpartum depression in men can have an adverse effect on the family unit, negatively impacting their relationship with their wives, and taking a toll on their children’s wellbeing.
- Children of men with postpartum depression have a higher likelihood of developing behavioral and emotional problems and are also at greater risk for developmental delays.
The husband may have been used to being the focus of his wife’s attention before the baby arrived. Then things changed. Mom is now so caught up in bonding and taking care of the new addition to the family that he feels pushed aside and excluded.
Lack of support.
Positive support from friends and family members is key to providing parents with confidence and enhancing their competence. Fathers, however, do not typically get the same level of support that mothers do following the baby’s birth. Their struggles are often overlooked or minimized.
Difficulty bonding with the baby.
Fathers sometimes have trouble bonding with their baby and may feel jealous of the strong connection their wives and child seem to have with each other.
A new father may feel increased pressure to provide for his growing family and worry about the added responsibility required to take care of the baby’s needs. Economic problems or limited resources can add even more to his stress.
Recent studies have shown that childbirth triggers hormonal changes in men as well as women. A man’s testosterone level starts to drop towards the end of his wife’s pregnancy, preparing him to be more sensitive to his infant’s crying, and better able to empathize and bond with the child. This drop in testosterone lowers serotonin levels as well, which can alter brain chemistry and increase the risk of depression.
A depressed spouse.
Studies indicate that a man is much more likely to develop postpartum depression if his wife is also depressed.
Sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
Sleep deprivation can alter neurochemical balance in the brain and make a person more vulnerable to depression.
History of depression.
Men who have a personal or family history of depression or other mental health issues are at greater risk of postpartum depression.
Concerns about being a good parent.
The father may feel unsure of how to connect with his baby and feel inadequate to cope with the stress of parenting.
Fathers may feel ashamed, embarrassed, or confused about their feelings and try to hide them so they don’t appear weak.
Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression in Men
- Anger, frustration, or irritability.
- Violent or aggressive behavior.
- Feeling overwhelmed, powerless, or inadequate.
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty.
- Feeling guilty or worthless because of their inability to cope, or about not loving their baby enough.
- Changes in appetite and weight loss or gain.
- Being easily stressed and manifesting responses to muscle tension such as frequent jaw or fist clenching.
- Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches that have no clear cause.
- Acting distant and withdrawing from family and friends.
- Compromised productivity at work.
- A mind that’s always racing.
- Escapism through substance abuse, working longer hours, excessive playing of video games, or addictive behaviors such as increased use of alcohol or prescription drugs.
- Engaging in impulsive, risky behavior such as reckless driving, gambling, or an extramarital affair.
- Excessive worrying.
- Trouble concentrating
- Low energy and daytime fatigue.
- Sense of impending doom.
- Disturbing thoughts that are obsessive or irrational.
- Being self-critical.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Feeling trapped with no end in sight.
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
- Thoughts of accidentally hurting the baby.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Suggestions for coping.
The transition to parenthood is a major, life-changing event. Adjusting to a new baby takes time, and it is quite normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed or burned out at some point during the process. Don’t beat yourself up.
Focus on self-care.
As much as you are able, try to get enough rest, find time for regular exercise, and eat healthy foods.
Share the load.
Figure out ways to share childcare, such as alternating shifts with your wife so you can both get adequate sleep.
Ask for help.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help when you need it.
Talk about your feelings.
There’s nothing shameful about postpartum depression. Share what you’re feeling with your wife or a trusted, non-judgmental friend or relative.
Connect with other dads.
Connecting with other dads is a great way to learn skills, know you are not alone, and have a support group to whom you can turn.
Find a creative outlet to express your feelings such as music, art, journaling, or crafts.
Do something you enjoy.
Engage in an activity you enjoy that connects you to others, such as joining a sports team or support group, taking a class, building something, learning how to play an instrument.
Therapy can be an effective way to address the way you are feeling, thinking, and acting, and help you gain a better perspective on what is going on.
Christian counseling for postpartum depression in men.
Christian counseling involves a combination of biblical principles and clinical intervention. If you are a new father struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety, please feel free to give us a call today. We would be happy to answer your questions and/or set up an appointment to discuss how we can best help you manage the challenges you are facing and walk you through the healing process.
“Baby and Father”, Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Walking on the Beach with Daddy”, Courtesy of Tatiana Syrikova
Tatiana Syrikova, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Nap Time”, Courtesy of cottonbro studio, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Giving Baby a Kiss”, Courtesy of Yan Krukau, Pexels.com, CC0 License