Postpartum Depression in New Fathers: A Silent Health Concern

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A recent study has shed light on a surprising and often overlooked facet of men's mental health: as many as 30% of new fathers may experience postpartum depression (PPD). This health condition, more typically associated with new mothers, is increasingly believed to affect men on a similar scale, particularly in the first year after becoming a parent.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a formidable condition that can occur after childbirth, characterized by a variety of intense emotions ranging from excitement and happiness to anxiety and fear. This condition doesn't just affect those who give birth; it can also affect surrogates and adoptive parents.

Typically, symptoms of PPD can begin within a single month following childbirth and last beyond two weeks in duration. Symptoms may manifest as a mood disorder involving intense psychological depression. This can include feelings of social withdrawal, difficulty in bonding with the baby, feelings of worthlessness, and guilt.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Changes experienced during and after pregnancy can trigger feelings of sadness, anxiety, or feeling overwhelmed. If these feelings persist for more than two weeks, it may indicate postpartum depression.

Image Source: Oliver Hae via UnsplashImage Source: Oliver Hae via Unsplash
Image Source: Oliver Hae via Unsplash

If left untreated, PPD can be consequential, underscoring the importance of seeking help and treatment such as therapy.

Understanding the Unanticipated Problem

Depression after childbirth is not only limited to new mothers. This misapprehension could likely be the result of social perceptions and the traditional societal expectations placed on men to be the "strong ones."

Traditionally, postpartum depression has been considered a "women's issue." However, recent studies have provided troubling insights about its prevalence among men. A meta-analysis published in "JAMA Psychiatry" revealed that 'approximately one in four men experiences symptoms of depression following the birth of a child, most commonly between the first to sixth month'.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

How Paternal Postpartum Depression Displays Itself

Clinical signs of postpartum depression in fathers may vary and differ from the symptoms identified in women.

Some common signs might include:

- A persistent feeling of sadness

- Fatigue

- Insomnia

- Loss of interest

- Withdrawal from social activities

- Alcohol abuse

- Alteration in appetite

The Impact on Parenthood and Relationships

Paternal postpartum depression not only affects new fathers, it also impacts the spouse's mental health, marital relationship, and child's socio-economic development.

A direct link suggesting that 'fathers with clinical depression tend to be less involved and interactive with their children' has been identified.

This decreased involvement and engagement can affect children's development, leading to behavioural problems and slower cognitive and language development.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Chris' Story

"You know, I had heard about postpartum depression before, but I had always pictured it as something new mothers dealt with. As a brand new dad, I was excited, of course, but I also found myself feeling strangely downcast. I always imagined being a father surrounded by this halo of joy and accomplishment but reality was starkly different.

"Little Lucy was just two months old when I realised something wasn't right with me - my emotions were all over the place and I couldn't seem to shake off this strange melancholy that had settled on me. I even started faking smiles and laughter for what felt like every waking hour.

"My days bled into each other and it was hard to remember what life felt like before Lucy was born. I loved her with all my heart, but this persistent sadness was confusing and honestly terrifying. I was exhausted. Not just physically – which I expected with the late-night feeds and nappy changes – but mentally and emotionally too. I stopped enjoying things that I used to love. Chatting with friends, watching my favourite football matches, or just spending time outside - everything seemed to have lost its colour. Confronting my own reflection in the mirror, I couldn't recognise the man staring back. Who was this sleep-deprived, cranky guy with a constant frown?

"The worst part? I thought I had to keep it together - for my wife, for Lucy. I believed I was supposed to be the strong one, the rock of the family. It's not so easy to admit you're struggling when all eyes are on you, expecting guidance and support. The feelings of guilt and failing Lucy and my wife were overwhelming. I didn't realise then that it was the depression blurring my judgement, making me feel unworthy and useless.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Eventually, I discovered that what I was experiencing was postpartum depression - and it wasn't my fault. With help from professionals and unconditional support from my family, I have slowly begun the journey towards understanding and managing my illness."

How to Seek Help

Even though it is so prevalent, many new fathers suffering from postpartum depression don't seek help because they might not recognize the symptoms or they fear stigma and discrimination.

Men need to be encouraged to seek professional advice, and healthcare providers need to increase paternal mental health screenings during postnatal check-ins. Psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and antidepressant medications can effectively treat and manage these symptoms.

The recognition and awareness of paternal postpartum depression are still growing. Health professionals, friends, and family members should encourage new fathers to talk about their feelings and emotions, by fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

By focusing our attention on the mental well-being of both parents after childbirth, we can contribute to healthier families. With the right support, new fathers experiencing postpartum depression can overcome this invisible crisis.

Article By Joe Plumb - Originally published on Heads To Health

Related topics: