Postpartum depression, which is also known as postnatal depression, is a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth and contrary to popular belief can affect both sexes.
Research shows that one in10 men suffers from postpartum depression, either shortly before or after the arrival of a newborn. This is slightly lower than the rate among women. Research also supports that young dads remain at a higher risk of depression during the first few years of fatherhood.
According to experts, the strongest predictor of male postpartum depression is in fact female postpartum depression. Although not in all cases, a man is twice as likely to develop postpartum depression if the wife experiences it. This is according to a study authored by US psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Darby Saxbe.
In the study she says, “We know men get postpartum depression, and we know testosterone also drops in new dads, but we don’t know why. It’s often been suggested hormones underlie some of the postpartum depression symptoms in moms, but there’s been so much less attention paid to fathers. We were trying to put together the pieces to solve this puzzle.”
Considering little awareness has been made of postpartum depression in men, a lot of them don’t even know they are experiencing it and therefore, unlike women, are unlikely to seek help when feeling overwhelmed. To prevent negative long-term effects, it’s important that depression in fathers is recognised and treated early and effectively.
Risk factors for paternal depression
Some of the known risk factors associated with depression in fathers (paternal depression) include:
- Postnatal depression in the man’s partner
- A history of depression
- Relationship problems
- Low self-esteem or feelings of incompetence in the parenting role
- First-time fatherhood
- Fussy child.
Symptoms of paternal depression
Some of the symptoms associated with postnatal depression in men include:
- Tiredness, headaches and pain
- Irritability, anxiety and anger
- Loss of libido
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control and unable to cope
- Changes in sleep patterns and especially insomnia
- Feelings of isolation and disconnection from partner, friends or family
- Increased hours of work as a part of the withdrawal from family
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol.
Traditional attitudes towards fatherhood and masculinity can mean that men are less likely to talk about how they feel. Worries about extra responsibilities, financial stresses and managing work can also have an effect. If you think that you or your partner may be experiencing postnatal depression, speak to your doctor.
Often, a man’s friends are the first to notice symptoms of depression, such as not turning up to social events or being unusually cranky or down. If you notice these symptoms in a mate, you can try asking him about his feelings. Let him know you’re there for him and that he should think about getting help.