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Postpartum depression in men is a real and underdiagnosed problem. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression (PPD) after the birth of a child. PPD can have a serious impact on fathers and their families. Fathers with PPD are more likely to be withdrawn, have trouble bonding with their baby, and be less able to cope with the demands of parenthood.

What is postpartum depression in men?

Postpartum depression in men is a kind of depression that a father develops after a child is born. Although women feel it more frequently, fathers can also experience it. Men might not have the physical pain of childbirth or need physical healing. That said, having a new kid causes huge changes in his life. Like mothers, fathers must take care of their mental health. Stress and tiredness are two factors that can lead to male postpartum depression.

Postpartum-depression-in-men

Postpartum depression affects one in four males three to six months after the baby is brought home. While women talk openly about their hormonal shifts, the new family member also has an impact on the male hormone system.

Males can unintentionally feel left out since they are not the primary focus of the relationship, and this can affect their mood. Women prefer to bond with the baby right away whereas men take longer to attach. Also, many men claim that men have an innate drive to work harder at their jobs to ensure they can raise kids and support their families.

The main distinctions between postpartum depression in men and women

Even though many of the symptoms of postpartum depression are similar in both sexes, there are some obvious differences. Men who are depressed may exhibit specific feelings and actions that are less typical of women. For instance, men with postpartum depression are more likely to be impulsive, have trouble making decisions, be irritated, and have a limited range of expressed emotions.

Men are also more likely to use violence, avoid conflict, and abuse drugs. Men find themselves feeling frustrated, angry, or having postpartum fury, confused, worried, and anxious. Postpartum depression in men shows symptoms differently; each person’s experience with and response to parenthood is unique.

🔖Related Reading: Stay-at-home mom depression: behind the scenes.

Causes of postpartum depression in men

8% of fathers report having paternal depression. It is unfortunate that many cases of postnatal depression in men go misdiagnosed. Hence, it’s crucial to make an early diagnosis and intervention for the sake of the father’s and the family’s health.

Researched by Depression Open Talks, postpartum depression can develop or worsen for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Previous depression or anxiety
  • Other issues with mental health include substance abuse
  • A lack of or low level of social support
  • A low-income or financial stress 
  • Relationship with the mother
  • Living in a different home from the child

Postpartum depression might manifest differently in men and in women. The need for mental health help may be indicated by increasing working hours, retreating from the family, or losing interest in activities.

Symptoms of postpartum depression in men

Following the birth of a child, feeling worn out, overburdened, and anxious is a typical parent experience. However, postpartum depression may be the cause if symptoms last or if they impair everyday functioning or the parent’s capacity to care for the child. Both mothers and fathers may attest to this.

Postpartum depression shares many symptoms with a serious depressive disorder. Everybody has a different set of symptoms. They can range in severity, and you might only feel some of them.

These are some typical signs for males suffering from paternal depression:

  • Change in appetite 
  • Altered weight
  • Inability to sleep
  • Unexplained aches or pains
  • Lost energy
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities 
  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Worrying excessively
  • Lack of focus or decision-making
  • Momentary mood swings
  • Thoughts of suicide or death 

Fathers suffering from postpartum depression usually show uncertainty, anxiety, and a limited range of emotions.

The Stigma of Postpartum Depression in Men

Men are infrequently evaluated for postpartum depression, which is thought to be underdiagnosed. As a result, the prevalence of postpartum depression in men is probably larger than we previously believed. This is due to some factors. First, many people mistakenly believe that men cannot be emotionally damaged by the transition to fatherhood in the same way that moms may. This is because postpartum depression is believed to be just related to giving birth.

Additionally, doctors are less likely to examine fathers for postpartum depression. After giving delivery, women are routinely examined in the hospital, and then again six weeks later. It is unlikely that a father will be tested for postpartum depression if he has a scheduled appointment with a doctor except if he specifically mentions his symptoms. 

Men can internalize stigma, which they may also suffer. One study discovered that new fathers had the propensity to support conventional gender norms, such as the idea of a father as a “tough guy.” Fathers who are depressed can believe that talking about their feelings will make them appear “weak”; therefore they avoid doing so.

As a result, they might refrain from discussing these emotions with their partners, close friends, and medical professionals. Sadly, internalizing these thoughts and emotions can make depression worse and keep a new father from seeking treatment.

By addressing postpartum depression in men, we can help alter perceptions and end stigma. Healthcare professionals can assist by routinely checking for depression in new fathers and educating them. Fathers can receive regular updates on how they are doing from family and friends, who can also encourage them to talk openly about their experiences and normalize the challenges of becoming a parent.

How to overcome postpartum depression in men

We can better assist families in navigating this difficult time in life by being open and honest about how the postpartum period affects both men and women. Here are some tips for coping with male postpartum depression:

Take a Break for Yourself

Being a parent is challenging and can elicit a variety of emotions, both good and bad. It is normal to occasionally feel overburdened, pressured, anxious, and burned out. When new parents feel bad, a lot of them believe that something is wrong with them. Humiliation may result from this, which can worsen depression.

You shouldn’t worry; these parental-related emotions are natural. Instead of criticizing yourself, commend yourself for admitting the challenge and making an effort to assist yourself become a more present parent.

Get to Know Other Dads

You can manage the transition to fatherhood with the aid of social support and relationships with other people. Even if you don’t share your experiences out loud, social interaction reduces loneliness and isolation. Find a local dad’s group or try to organize an outing with a friend.

Exercise

Exercise is well known for enhancing mood and serving as a coping mechanism for stress, depression, and anxiety. You can feel better by scheduling an hour of exercise a couple of days a week. Moving your body in any way is beneficial for both your physical and emotional health, whether you go to the gym, go for a run, or play sports.

Speak with Your Partner

Male postpartum depression is more common when a mother is depressed, so maintaining a supportive relationship with your wife is important for both of your emotional states. It might be difficult to prioritize time with your partner when you have a newborn.

Plan to spend time together each week, if at all possible. Even a date night at home can help you stay connected, even though date nights may be different now that you have a baby. Check-in with each other at this time, discuss parenting and engage in enjoyable activities as a couple.

Create a hobby

Having an enjoyable activity to look forward to can help you feel better. Make a list of potential hobbies, whether it be a new interest or one you have already tried. Numerous interests also provide opportunities for social interaction, which can lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation. You can try taking up a class, playing an instrument, constructing something, joining a reading club, or taking up team sports.

Eat and Drink routine

Aim to consume a balanced diet free of processed foods that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grain carbs, and healthy fats. Limiting or avoiding particular substances may also aid in your recovery from depression. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking in a lot of caffeine all have the potential to cause or exacerbate depression and anxiety.

While moderate doses of caffeine may aid with mood enhancement, excessive amounts can disrupt your sleep. If you consume caffeine, aim to keep your daily intake to 400 mg. On top of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise males to limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks per day. 

Postpartum depression in men: Final words

Male postpartum depression is easily treatable but can linger misdiagnosed for months or years. Consult your primary care physician or a mental health expert if you are a new father experiencing symptoms of depression. It’s crucial to get professional assistance if a loved one expresses concern about your mental health so that you can better look out for your partner, yourself, and your unborn child.

References

Guarnotta, E., & Byars, L. (n.d.). Male Postpartum Depression: Signs, Causes, & Treatments. Choosing Therapy. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://www.choosingtherapy.com/postpartum-depression-men/

Sheppard, S. (2021, June 28). What Is Male Postpartum Depression? Verywell Mind. Retrieved November 20, 2022, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-male-postpartum-depression-5188022

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