Daddy's Depressed? How Paternal Postnatal Depression May Be Affecting The Man In Your Life

Depressed Dads

Women are becoming more aware of postpartum depression and its symptoms, which can range from short-term sadness to hopelessness and anger. But what about dads? After all, men don’t give birth, lactate, or have to recover from delivering a baby. Usually men are less affected by a new baby and the care a new baby requires.

But that doesn’t mean new fathers aren’t affected by depression after their baby is born. In fact, one study shows that depression among new fathers increased by 68 percent during the first five years of their child’s life. If depression is affecting a new father in your life, here are some things you should know.

A hormonal connection

Postpartum depression among women is often linked to hormonal changes after childbirth. Contrary to popular belief, men go through some hormone changes of their own during their partner’s pregnancy and after their baby is born. Most commonly, men’s testosterone levels can change. Other hormones like estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol may also go up. While it’s unclear why these hormones shift, the changes do occur. If your partner’s testosterone levels decrease, along with an increase in estrogen or stress hormones, he may be more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms.

Social conditions

Fathers today are more involved with their children than ever before. Dads are more likely to stay home with their baby while mothers work. This generation of fathers also tends to take on more child care and household tasks. While you as a mother may appreciate these changes, your partner’s new responsibilities can contribute to your partner’s depression. Depression after a baby is born is common, and sometimes even expected for mothers. But fathers are expected to have it all together while their wife deals with their own depression and healing. These attitudes often make it more difficult for your significant other to share the depression he’s dealing with. He may suffer in silence while you get the help you need.

Signs of paternal postnatal depression

While the signs of postpartum depression in women are typically recognizable by family members and healthcare providers, men with paternal postnatal depression may exhibit a different set of symptoms. Plus they usually don’t have a horde of people watching out for their mental state. Keep an eye on your partner for the following symptoms. You may want to consider approaching him about getting help if he:

  • Has unusual amounts of sadness and/or anger
  • Is uncharacteristically irritable or agitated
  • Is distancing himself from you or the baby
  • Has episodes of shortness of breath, heart palpitations, or panic attacks
  • Feels worthless
  • Is uninterested in his normal hobbies or sex
  • Begins engaging in risky behaviors
  • Spends more hours (unnecessarily) at work
  • Has a family history of depression

Your partner is also more likely to have paternal postnatal depression if you’re suffering from postpartum depression yourself.

Seeking help

Men who have paternal postnatal depression are much more likely to just live with it than a woman with postpartum depression. The good news is that seeking help can make a big difference in how your partner feels. Encourage your partner to:

  • Talk about his depression. Let him share his feelings. Encourage him to share what’s difficult about life with a new baby and try not to judge the way he’s feeling.
  • Seek counseling and/or medication. The first step is encouraging your partner to talk to his doctor. His doctor can help identify what will be most helpful in managing the symptoms of paternal postnatal depression.
  • Practice self-care. Although it’s hard with a new baby, encourage your partner to exercise, eat well, sleep well (whenever possible), or journal. Ask him what things will help him feel better.

Many new fathers experience paternal postnatal depression. If your partner is affected, the good news is, with time and care, he’ll eventually start to feel more like himself. While it’s important to take care of yourself and your baby, remember that your baby’s father may need some extra care too.