Fathering a new baby is filled with happy surprises, like how much they look like you, or how much you love those tiny fingers and toes. But for some dads, one of the most unexpected aspects of new fatherhood is feeling overwhelmed by sadness, fatigue, and stress.
Doctors often warn expecting parents about postpartum depression, but those warnings are usually directed at moms. It’s important for families to understand that dads can also experience postpartum depression – a phenomenon known as paternal postpartum depression, or PPPD. Researchers from the National Institute of Health estimate that up to 25% of new fathers experience paternal postpartum depression around the birth of a child.
Causes of Paternal Postpartum Depression
Hormonal changes aren’t just a cause of postpartum depression in women, they can cause it in men, too! During the late stages of their partner’s pregnancy, men can start to experience a rise in cortisol, prolactin and estrogen, and a drop in testosterone. In addition to these fluctuating hormones, there are other risk factors that can contribute to the onset of PPPD. For instance, if fathers:
- Find it difficult to bond with their baby
- Lack social support
- Aren’t sleeping well
- Struggle with resources or finances
- Experience stress in their relationship with their partner or other family members
- Have a history of depression
What’s more, a father’s chances of developing PPPD increases by 50% when his partner is diagnosed with PPD, which can present an incredible challenge for new families.
Signs and Symptoms of Paternal Postpartum Depression
It’s important to remember that even though both women and men can suffer from postpartum depression, it doesn’t mean they’ll express their emotional struggle in the same way. Symptoms of postpartum depression in men include:
- Isolating from friends and family
- Increased anger with others
- Constant feelings of frustration and irritability
- Increased negativity and cynicism
- Extreme sadness and despair
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Violent behavior
- Loss of interest in family, work or hobbies
- Increased impulsiveness or risky behavior
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Treating Paternal Postpartum Depression
Due to a pervasive idea that men need to “tough it out,” it’s common for new fathers to ignore signs of PPPD. But because dads play such a vital role in early development, it’s critical to seek help for PPPD so they can be present, both physically and emotionally, for their babies.
If fathers suspect PPPD, they should reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist and talk about what they’re experiencing. Releasing thoughts and feelings can be incredibly helpful when symptoms of PPPD set in. In addition, fathers need to understand that what they’re going through is very real, and seeking the help of a professional is highly recommended. A doctor can help you decide your best path to self-care and recovery, such as a prescribed medication, a support group, or other forms of therapy.
This website (http://postpartummen.com/) is a helpful resource for education and support for fathers struggling with PPPD.