As we explore mental health issues impacting men during the month of June, we are raising awareness about an issue that is often associated only with women -- postpartum depression.
According to Postpartum Support International, 1 in 10 dads develop postpartum depression and up to 18% develop an anxiety disorder. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the risk for new dads increased to 1 in 4 within the first three to six months after the baby’s birth. While most symptoms appear within the first three to six months, they can appear anytime within the first year.
How can dads get postpartum depression?
There are many things that contribute to postpartum depression in men. Some common factors include:
Hormonal changes: Just like women, men experience hormonal changes during and after their partner’s pregnancy. These changes are believed to assist with father-child bonding. Decreased testosterone levels are thought to lower aggression levels and strengthen attachment to the baby. However, low levels of testosterone are also linked to depression in men. Other hormones contribute to bonding; low levels of estrogen and cortisol in men can cause difficulties in bonding, which can lead to depression.
Past history of depression: Men who have experienced depression or other mental health issues in their lifetime are at greater risk for developing postpartum depression.
Sleep deprivation: Anyone who is sleep deprived for too long can develop depression symptoms. The combination of hormone changes and lack of sleep increases a dad’s risk for depression.
Other factors that contribute to postpartum depression are marital/relationship trouble, lack of support, financial problems, unintended pregnancy and maternal postpartum depression (half of men whose partner has postpartum depression are depressed themselves).
Many men try to ignore depression symptoms or turn to substances to self-medicate. As a result, symptoms often appear differently in men and include:
Restricted range of emotion
Working too much
Not bonding with the baby
Drinking too much or using other substances
Gambling too much
Of course men can experience traditional depression symptoms as well, such as:
Depressed/sad mood most days
Lack of interest in activities
Significant weight changes
Sleep changes - sleeping too much or too little
Thoughts of suicide
Any thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously and addressed promptly. If you or a loved one is feeling suicidal, reach out to one of the crisis hotlines/textlines below (insert graphic), call 911 or go to the emergency room.
Any man who is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression should seek the help of a mental health professional. It is a medical condition, not a character flaw or weakness. Ignoring symptoms and “waiting it out” will not make depression go away. Proper treatment, which usually consists of talk therapy and medication, is needed to address the issues. Mental health treatment doesn’t make anyone “less of a man,” despite some cultural beliefs.
Looking for treatment locally? Download The Hub’s resource and support group guides.
Some local agencies that provide services for parents and dads specifically:
Child & Family Guidance Center (support for family)