What you need to know:
- Postpartum depression is more intense lasting at least two weeks to even months.
- Although modern men are bolder in asking for help on mental health issues, there is still stigma in some societies.
The birth of a baby doesn't only bring joy. Anxiety, stress, exhaustion, and fear of inadequacy are often part of the package. These are mostly normal, and you outgrow them as the baby grows, and with support from those around you. But there is a much tougher and more sinister monster that could creep up – depression. For decades now, it has been known that a significant number of mothers experience postpartum depression.
However, what is not as well known is that men can also suffer from postpartum depression. Recent studies have shown at least one in ten fathers experience postpartum depression. This is said to be an understatement because many men do not report their condition. Many may not even know that the persistent stress and other negative emotions they are experiencing are symptoms of postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression
Postpartum depression is not the "baby blues" that many people experience after childbirth. The baby blues are mostly mild and last for a short while, generally two weeks or less. Postpartum depression is more intense lasting at least two weeks to even months. It can interfere with your ability to take care of your baby, perform other daily tasks, and take care of yourself and the mother.
Causes of postpartum depression in men
The causes of postpartum depression in men are not well understood, but it is believed to be a combination of physical, hormonal, and psychological factors. For example, after the birth of a baby, there is a sudden drop in the levels of hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. These changes can affect mood and energy levels.
Physical exhaustion from the lack of sleep, stress from the huge responsibility of caring for a baby, and the sudden drop in hormones after childbirth are all possible triggers. The added pressure of being the primary breadwinner can also be a factor.
A difficult pregnancy and delivery, and health complications affecting the mother or child, are also possible triggers. Financial difficulties can also cause a new father to feel anxious about providing for his baby and partner. This anxiety may develop into depression if not addressed.
Risk factors for postpartum depression in men
Certain factors increase your risk of developing postpartum depression.
A history of depression or anxiety
Stressful life events during the pregnancy, such as job loss or financial problems
Lack of social support
Relationship difficulties with your partner
Difficult delivery or health complications in the mother or child
Previous postpartum depression
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in men
The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in men are similar to those experienced by women.
- A persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, anxiety, or guilt
- Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of energy or motivation and difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Irritability, anger, restlessness, or agitation
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Getting help for postpartum depression in men
As with any other mental health condition, the first step in addressing postpartum depression is acknowledging it. If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, seek help. Talk with family, friends, and other people around you about the symptoms. Sometimes, their support is enough to alleviate the symptoms significantly.
However, if this does not work and the symptoms persist, talk to your doctor to screen you for postpartum depression. If necessary, they will refer you to a mental health professional.
You can also contact a support group such as Postpartum Men or Depression After Delivery. These groups provide support and information for fathers suffering from postpartum depression.
Get help for you, the baby, and your family
Although modern men are bolder in asking help on mental health issues, there is still stigma in some societies. This may discourage men to acknowledge and get treatment for postpartum depression. You shouldn’t be afraid. Every day you live with the depression is a day you deny yourself, your partner, your child, and the family the best version of you. With proper treatment, which may include medication and counselling, you can recover from postpartum depression.