3 - 4 Months

Dads can get postpartum depression, too

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Postpartum depression (PPD) is typically associated with new mothers, but fathers can suffer from it, too.

PPD is different from the “baby blues,” a common feeling of sadness that can affect both mothers and fathers during the first couple weeks of parenthood. When those feelings persist beyond that period, there’s a chance it may be some form of PPD. 

Just over 10% of new mothers experience PPD. Growing evidence suggests that between 5 and 10% of fathers can also show signs of depression at some point during their partner’s pregnancy or the first 6 months of their baby’s life. The risk for men peaks between 3 and 6 months postpartum.

What’s behind new-dad depression

While paternal PPD is still being studied and isn’t fully understood, there are a few possible causes.

Hormonal changes

New fathers go through hormonal changes, just like new mothers do. Studies show that these shifts can help fathers bond with their new babies. However, they also can contribute to mood changes. Dips in testosterone and estradiol (a form of estrogen) are thought to be primary contributors to paternal PPD. 

Sleep deprivation

A change in sleep habits is almost unavoidable with a new baby. The hormonal shifts that both fathers and mothers undergo after birth only make things worse, as testosterone and estrogen modulate the neurotransmitters in our brains that regulate sleep quality. This lack of good shut-eye makes fathers (and mothers) more likely to suffer from PPD.  

Lack of emotional support

There is a stigma attached to depression in general, but it’s especially prevalent in men. Cultural norms of masculinity can cause men to avoid discussing their feelings or even recognize them to begin with. There’s a prevailing idea that men are supposed to be the tough ones and the providers, and paternal PPD doesn’t always fit into that narrative. Remember that depression is neither a weakness nor a character flaw.

Feelings of guilt

One suggested cause of paternal PPD is the guilt some men feel about their own perception that they’re not involved enough. For reasons both biological and societal, new moms tend to shoulder much of the labor involved in raising a newborn. When dads watch from the sidelines, they can experience feelings of helplessness and guilt that can contribute to depression.

Risk factors for PPD

Certain factors make some men more prone to experiencing PPD:

  1. Family history of depression 
  2. A baby born preterm and/or with complications or illness
  3. Past loss of a loved one 
  4. A significant other who is experiencing PPD

When and how to get treatment

Babies are wonderful additions to a family, but they also bring about huge changes. It’s very important to recognize the signs of paternal PPD and treat it. In addition to their family, friends, physician, therapist, and child’s pediatrician, new fathers struggling with depression can get support from these resources:

  1. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  2. “Postpartum Dads” Facebook group
  3. Paternal Mental Health: Why Is It Relevant? study

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Posted in: 3 - 4 Months, Social Emotional, Family Relationships, Parent Life, Health, Lovevery App, Parenting

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