Postpartum depression isn’t limited to moms.
Rates of depression among new fathers are similar to those among new mothers, and more needs to be done to help these men, two psychologists say.
“Recent research has shown that roughly 10 percent of new dads experience postpartum depression, and up to 18 percent have some type of anxiety disorder,” said Dan Singley, of the Center for Men’s Excellence in San Diego.
“Unfortunately, few psychologists receive focused training regarding identifying, assessing or treating common men’s issues in the period from conception to a year or so post-childbirth,” Singley said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.
Men tend not to seek mental health services during this period, so there’s a lack of scholarly attention to this vulnerable group, Singley added.
Dads, too, can be affected by something much like postpartum mood disorders.
The term used with dads, however, is paternal postnatal depression.
Did you know that up to 10 percent of dads can be affected by this? If a dad’s partner has postpartum mood disorder, he’s then at double the risk of paternal postnatal depression.
Also, the increased risk of paternal postnatal depression goes up to 26 percent when baby is 3 to 6 months old. Some wonder if this is because it’s the time moms are going back to work, and life changes yet again.
Studies also show that paternal postnatal depression is more common in men who are unemployed, in a difficult relationship, have a history of depression, or are black or Hispanic.
Dads can have symptoms similar to moms, but they can can also struggle as a result of other factors, such as concern over finances, feeling left out (since baby requires so much of mom’s time), pressure to take care of his new family, not knowing how to be a dad or what to do with the baby, fear of making mistakes, and so on.
Some common symptoms in new dads with paternal postnatal depression:
- Change in weight or appetite
- Withdrawing from things he previously enjoyed
- Isolating from family and friends
- Low energy
- Easily stressed
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches
- Overworking to avoid being at home
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Panic attacks
- Behavioral changes (it’s more common to see crying in women, while men are more likely to display behavioral issues.)
So what can a dad do? First and foremost, he should take care of himself by following a healthy diet, making a point to get enough sleep and exercising regularly.
He should also talk to his partner about what’s happening with him and how he’s feeling, even though this is often difficult for most men. Dads should also seek care from a physician or therapist.
Singley’s work on male postpartum depression was scheduled for presentation Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, in San Francisco.
Sara Rosenquist is also addressing dads’ postpartum depression at the meeting at the same time.
“The predominant narrative has attributed these experiences to hormonal changes and fluctuations specifically related to pregnancy and birthing,” said Rosenquist, of the Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health Psychology in Cary, N.C.
“It is highly unlikely that the hormonal disruptions of pregnancy and birthing would explain the whole picture if fathers and adoptive parents all experience postpartum depression at the same rates,” added Rosenquist.
Factors that could trigger anxiety and the “baby blues” in new fathers include sleep deprivation, exhaustion, time away from work, gender role conflict and concerns about being a good parent, the psychologists said.
New and expectant fathers should be screened for signs of depression, Rosenquist and Singley believe.
However, identifying depression in men can be a challenge because they can have different symptoms than women, Rosenquist said.
“Women are more likely to report feelings of sadness and frequent crying, whereas men are more likely to feel irritable and socially disconnected,” she said.
One thing that can help men avoid postpartum depression is support from friends, Singley said.
“Fathers who maintain solid social support networks experience a buffer from the conflicts and demands associated with parenting,” he said.