Men can suffer from postpartum depression, too
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mood disorder that can affect as many as 1 in 7 women after giving birth, according to the American Psychological Association.
PPD is often treated as an isolated incident among new mothers, but a new study shows that this is an inaccurate portrayal of the problem and overlooks many new fathers who experience some form of depression after the birth of a child.
Researchers from the Center for Men’s Excellence in San Diego and the Center for Reproductive Health Psychology recently presented research on the prevalence of postpartum depression among men at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.
“Recent research has shown that roughly 10 percent of new dads experience postpartum depression, and up to 18 percent have some type of anxiety disorder,” said Dan Singley, a presenter of the research.
Their research shows that men are excluded from the treatment and care options provided to women who suffer from postpartum depression and that depression screening in new fathers is just as important as it is for mothers.
“Much has been written about women’s experiences of pregnancy and postpartum, most of it exploring negative reactions, ranging from clinical depression to postpartum psychosis, and attributing them to unique physical changes women experience during pregnancy,” said Singley. “But the incidence rate of depression is comparable between new mothers and fathers.”
One reason PPD in men might have been overlooked for so long is that postpartum depression is often said to be caused specifically by the hormonal changes and fluctuations that happen during pregnancy and birth.
However, as the research shows, men also face an increased risk of depression post-birth, so hormonal changes cannot be the only driving factor behind PPD.
Another reason PPD has not been commonly considered a problem for new fathers is that men are less likely to seek mental health services after the birth of a child.
PPD prevalence in new fathers might be related to the phenomena of sympathetic pregnancy that affect some men. In emotionally close relationships anthropologists have found that some men experience pregnancy symptoms like nausea and changes in appetite.
Lack of sleep, according to the researchers, is one of the biggest driving factors behind PPD among fathers.
New fathers may also struggle with the gender norms and societal expectations which can increase anxiety and depressions.
The researchers say that more attention must be paid to new fathers who also suffer from serious postpartum depression and anxiety. People need access to regular screenings to monitor depression and anxiety and help find treatment.
“But screening is not enough,” said Sara Rosenquist a co-presenter of the research. “Screening does not distinguish between major depressive disorder, which sometimes requires treatment with medications in addition to psychotherapy, and adjustment disorder, which is more commonly better treated with psychotherapy alone.”
New fathers should also seek out the support of friends and family during pregnancy and after the birth of their child.