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Can Fathers Get Postpartum Depression

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Do Fathers Experience Postpartum Depression?

Lets start with something simple: Its normal to struggle with the adjustment to parenthood. Its a big onearguably the biggest.

Experts tend to explain that mood issues go from struggling with the adjustment to a potential bigger mood and anxiety disorder when symptoms are frequent , long-lasting , and intense .

Some of the classic signs of PMADs, in both men and women, include feelings of sadness or worry, not being able to enjoy activities that are usually pleasurable, becoming socially withdrawn, and having changes to sleep, energy level, and appetite, says Saxbe.

These signs of PMADs also tend to be more specific to men, experts say:

  • Anger, frustration, or irritability. PMADs dont always show up as sadness or anxiety and many men report these symptoms instead.
  • Bodily manifestations of stress. You might notice muscle tension, headaches, stomach problems, or clench your jaw more than usual.
  • Isolation and withdrawal. Just remember: You can be withdrawn while still being around people, says Singley. The question here is not Are you physically in the presence of other people, but rather Are you still connecting with people?
  • Substance use. Its not just drinking or drug use, says Singley. I think of it more broadly as an increase in dopaminergic behaviors such as doing risky stuff, cheating, or playing more video games.

Causes Of Paternal Postpartum Depression

A 2014 study published in Pediatrics found that depression among new dads increases by 68 percent during the first five years of Baby’s life. “The fact is, one in four new dads in the United States become depressedwhich amounts to 3,000 dads who become depressed each day. It’s normal for dads to need help as they enter fatherhood, says Will Courtenay, PhD, LCSW, also known as “The Men’s Doc,” author of Dying to Be Men , and the founder of the website SadDaddy.com.

Conventional wisdom holds that a mother’s postpartum depression is triggered largely by hormonal fluctuationsand studies show that a man’s hormones also shift during pregnancy and after birth, for reasons that are still unknown. Testosterone levels drop estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol go up. Some men even develop symptoms such as nausea and weight gain. “Evolutionary biologists suspect that the hormone fluctuation is nature’s way of making sure that fathers stick around and bond with their baby,” explains Dr. Courtenay.

Those hormone fluctuationspaired with the neurochemical changes that occur in the brain as a result of sleep deprivation can create the perfect storm for male postpartum depression, says Dr. Courtenay.

Postpartum Depression In Men Yes Its Real And Can Happen

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 babys 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 partners 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.

  • Symptoms

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    Can Fathers Have Postpartum Depression

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    In the days after his son was born, Rob Sandler found the thrill of becoming a new father replaced with dark feelings of dread and hopelessness. Those feelings, coupled with sleep deprivation and stress, culminated in a panic attack during his sons bris.

    As a group of old friends was saying goodbye after the ceremony, I had this feeling that they were leaving and I was stuck in this situation that would never get any better, said Mr. Sandler, a marketing executive in Dallas. I just felt trapped. What followed was months of sadness, anxiety and perhaps most worrisome of all a feeling of acute disappointment in his own ability to be a good parent.

    In recent years, a growing body of research, and the increasing visibility of dads like Mr. Sandler, has given rise to the idea that you dont have to give birth to develop postpartum depression. Studies suggest that the phenomenon may occur in from 7 percent to 10 percent of new fathers, compared to about 12 percent of new mothers, and that depressed dads were more likely to spank their children and less likely to read to them.

    The idea that parents who havent given birth can get postpartum depression isnt entirely new. Studies have shown, for example, that moms and dads who adopt children also show signs of the condition.

    But some mental health experts question whether what fathers experience after birth is truly postpartum depression.

    Since then, fathering has been a wonderful experience, he said.

    Why Do Men Get Ppd

    Dads Get Postpartum Depression Almost as Much as Moms ...

    Women most often get postpartum depression because of hormone changes after pregnancy. Your male partner doesnt have the same excuse, so why would he be at risk? He didnt exactly build a human being in his body for nine months. But I digress

    There are a few factors to consider. When men spend a lot of time with a baby, their testosterone level drops. That can in turn alter brain chemistry, lowering serotonin levels and increasing the risk of clinical depression. Men who are more empathetic are at an even greater risk. If they feel unattached to their new baby, that can cause pain because of how much they want to build a strong bond with their child.

    If the man has a history of depression, his risk for developing postpartum depression increases. Theres also a higher chance of your partner developing PPD if youre dealing with PPD yourself. It can be difficult for him to see you struggling, making him feel more helpless.

    Additionally, life during a pandemic can throw major curveballs into anyones game. Missing out on some major milestones of your pregnancy like ultrasounds and doctors appointments could leave him feeling left out. Now that the baby is here, things are still different than what either of you imagined. You might be isolated from family and friends and in constant fear over your new babys health. This would take a toll on anyones mental health, and its exacerbated when youre not getting enough sleep.

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    Is Ppd In Dads On The Rise

    According to Dr. Courtenay, there havent been enough studies to know if PPD in dads has actually been increasing over time. Even though these studies existed, no one was talking about it, he says. But based on his experience interacting with fathers in his practice and online, he suspects it may have.

    Over a decade ago, Dr. Courtenay began noticing a trend of depression in new dads. After reviewing the research, he confirmed that many men do indeed suffer from postpartum depression. He ties the increase he noticed to the 2008 recession, when there was a big increase in stay-at-home-dads who suddenly became their kids primary caretaker after they lost their jobs. These dads were not prepared for this, he says.

    PPD hits working dads today equally hard. Many struggle with a problem women face, too: finding work-family-life balance. Men feel under increasing social pressure to be involved in their childrens lives from the get-go as they and their partners go back to work. In addition, many of their own fathers had a very hands-off approach to parenting.

    They dont know what being an involved dad looks like, says Dr. Courtenay. This combination of factors, he explains, can create a lot of anxiety about Dads new role and anxiety, in turn, often leads to depression.

    There are numerous ways the pandemic could have impacted new parents mental health. With daycare centers and schools closed, both parents have struggled to be full-time caregivers.

    Who Gets Postpartum Mood And Anxiety Disorders

    The short answer: Anyone. Sure, there are racial disparities and inequities in terms of access to resources and care and cultural biases, but PMADs have been IDed in every culture, age, income level, and ethnicity.

    That said, there are risk factors that might predispose you to one. A biggie? A family or individual history of depression, anxiety, or trauma, says Singley.

    High levels of stress, a lack of social support, and sleep disturbanceswhich are essentially inevitable as a new parentare risk factors, too, says Saxbe.

    In the postpartum period, Singley also says that a huge risk factor for fathers to develop depression is a depressed partner, which makes social support a crucial part of feeling better.

    New dads can sometimes feel unsure of how to connect with the baby and less able to help with baby care, so that can be a unique risk factor for men as well, Saxbe adds.

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    Lower Testosterone Higher Depression

    Previous research has linked testosterone with mens depression levels in general. Low testosterone may contribute to the feelings of lethargy and disinterest in normally pleasurable activities that characterize depression. In fact, some psychiatrists have even suggested prescribing testosterone supplements to treat depression in men. However, no studies had specifically looked at the potential role of testosterone in fathers postpartum depression.

    My colleagues and I analyzed data from the Community Child Health Research Network, a National Institutes of Health-funded study of new parents health and well-being. The study recruited moms after the birth of an infant and followed them for several years, along with their partners. At one of the study sites, in Lake County, Illinois, men also provided saliva samples for testosterone analysis when their infants were around nine months old. Both moms and dads reported on their symptoms of depression several times across the first few years of parenthood.

    We found that dads with lower testosterone reported feeling more depressed. This fits with other research into how testosterone and depression work together. But ours is the first study to observe this relationship specifically in fathers of infants. Given that many men show drops in testosterone over the transition to parenthood, this finding may help explain why the postpartum period is such a high-risk time for depression in men.

    Talk To The Men In Your Life

    Postpartum depression can affect dads, too

    Men can have trouble opening up about their emotions, especially to other men. But if youve just become a father, youre probably feeling overwhelmed by your new role – and even if they havent said so, the other fathers in your life probably felt the same way.

    In fact, this is true for your own father as well! If you have friends with children, you can reach out to them to ask how they dealt with difficult emotions when they became fathers. And you can also talk to your own father and how he handled the many challenges that come along with parenthood.

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    Future Screening For Paternal Postpartum Depression

    Most Ob/Gyns check new moms for depression and anxiety symptoms during a postpartum visit. But there is no such check-up for men.

    In 2019, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that postpartum depression screenings not be solely the responsibility of obstetricians. They urged pediatricians to incorporate maternal postpartum depression screenings and referrals for treatment during well-child visits.

    In 2020, an editorial in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, regardless of gender, and to make appropriate referrals when necessary.

    Dont be surprised if your partners Ob/Gyn or babys pediatrician asks about your mental health during a visit. This evaluation could range from engaging in an informal discussion to filling out the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale , a simple screening tool consisting of 10 questions. Prioritizing the mental well-being of moms and dads is not only good for them, but for the baby.

    Paternal Depression And Anxiety: Signs To Watch Out For

    Common physical signs might include:

    • tiredness
    • trouble sleeping, or sleeping and waking at usual times
    • weight loss or gain
    • ongoing headaches or muscle tension .

    Changes in emotion and moods can also be signs of antenatal or postnatal depression. For example, you might feel:

    • sad
    • isolated or disconnected from your partner, friends or whnau
    • unable to enjoy things that you used to find fun
    • fear of looking after your baby.

    You might have changes in thinking – for example, you might:

    • be unable to concentrate or remember things
    • have trouble making decisions or doing everyday tasks
    • have thoughts of being overwhelmed, out of control, or like you cant cope
    • think about death or suicide.

    You might also have changes in behaviour – for example, you might:

    • not be interested in sex
    • withdraw from your family or want to spend more time at work
    • use drugs or alcohol to try and cope.

    Source: Antenatal depression and postnatal depression in men

    Raising Children Network

    The Australian parenting website

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    Dads Experience Postnatal Depression Too

    In fact, up to one in 10 will.

    Some of the risk factors that can make experiencing depression antenatally or postnatally more likely are if:

    • youve experienced depression before, or
    • your partners experiencing depression .

    Other risk factors include things like relationship or money issues, a sick or premature baby, or if youre worried about your partner because shes had a tricky pregnancy, traumatic birth, or difficult recovery.

    Theres also growing evidence that, just like mums, dads also experience hormone changes when their babys born that may negatively impact mental health.

    Do You Have Male Postpartum Depression

    Postpartum Depression in Fathers

    Do you think yourself or a loved one has male postpartum depression? The best course of action is getting helpfor the sake of the dads mental health and the overall well-being of the family. Watch out for these symptoms and speak with a doctor if you’re concerned.

    • Has he become uncharacteristically irritable or agitated?
    • Is he distancing himself from his partner and the baby?
    • Is he gambling, drinking, taking drugs, or engaging in other reckless behaviors?
    • Does he have a personal or family history of depression?
    • Is he sad, tearful, or uninterested in doing things that he used to enjoy?
    • Does he make comments that he feels worthless or ?
    • Does he spend more time than usual at work?
    • Is Mom suffering from postpartum depression too?

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    Postpartum Depression Affects Dads Too

    July 6, 2021 — Postpartum depression isnât just something new mothers can get. Turns out it can affect new fathers, too, according to a new study.

    Michael W., a 38-year-old New Jersey-based attorney, and his wife had been excitedly planning for the birth of their baby and were overjoyed when she was born.

    But after that, “I found that parenting a newborn was shockingly exhausting. I felt unprepared for the task, overwhelmed by the burden of the 24-hour-schedule and lack of sleep, and I struggled with feelings of inadequacy,” he tells WebMD.

    Michael never thought he had postpartum depression , perhaps because the condition is more commonly associated with women. But a new study published in the American Journal of Menâs Health suggests that PPD also affects men.

    A team of Danish investigators led by researcher Sarah Pedersen, of the Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, extensively interviewed eight fathers with PPD and found their primary experiences involved feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless or inadequate, which sometimes turned into anger and frustration.

    Ultimately, all the men interviewed for the study sought formal help from a health care provider, but six went through several months of depressive symptoms before seeking or getting help.

    The findings also contained a message for parents, she says.

    What Causes Postnatal Depression In Men

    The adjustment to family life and the pressures of learning to raise a child can be overwhelming and stressful for fathers, no matter their circumstances. These issues are exacerbated by lack of sleep and less time to relax.

    Queensland Healths Chief Psychiatrist Dr John Reilly says first-time dads especially may be susceptible to postnatal mental illness.

    Theres no real way to prepare for the birth of your first child, Dr Reilly says.

    Of course, there are the feelings of happiness and anticipation but the reality is, the new pressures of fatherhood can also cause feelings of apprehension, anxiety, exhaustion and guilt.

    Life seems to change abruptly suddenly you have a human being to care for and it can be very daunting.

    Youre getting much less sleep, your routine is thrown out, you have far less free time and you spend more energy looking after your little one than yourself.

    Postnatal depression may be more common in dads who have:

    • limited practical, emotional or social support
    • a history of mental health issues
    • had a difficult pregnancy
    • found the reality of parenting different from their expectations
    • had major life and relationship difficulties
    • financial stress
    • current or previous issues with alcohol or drugs.

    Like mums who experience the illness, dads may also experience hormonal changes. Hormones such as testosterone and cortisol may change in men following the arrival of their child, triggering depression.

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