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That postpartum depression is due solely to hormonal shifts of the mother right after she gives birth is a common misconception; it does not explain how some men also experience PPD. Some studies are revealing that almost as many men as women suffer from postpartum depression. For example, a study of more than 5,000 two-parent families carried out by researchers at Eastern Virginian Medical School revealed that approximately 14 percent of new mothers and 10 percent of fathers had moderate to severe PPD.
Additionally, men who have a history of psychological issues including depression, are typically at a greater risk of PPD (USA News Health, 2008).
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Signs of PPD in Men
According to Deirdre Ryan, a psychiatrist at the B.C. Women’s Hospital, “anybody can get grumpy changing diapers on three hours of sleep, so how can you tell the difference between a bad day and a serious mental health issue?" (Today’s Parents, 2010). Here are some classic warning signs of PPD:
- Frequently sad and anxious
- Not pleased or interested in activities once enjoyed
- Oversleeping, or not being able to sleep at all
- Noticeable weight gain or loss
- Tired and lethargic during most of the day
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
Signs Associated with Men Only
One problem with the classic signs is that men don't typically acknowledge feeling anxious, guilty or sad, but there are some noticeable signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in men.
- Anger management problems; violence, and frequent conflicts with people
- Increased alcohol consumption, drug abuse or abuse of prescribed medicine
- Isolation from friends and family members
- Risk taking behavior, such as extramarital affairs, reckless driving, spending sprees, gambling
- Frequent physical ailments like digestion problems and headache
- Loss of interest in sex and hobbies
- Suicidal thoughts
Not every man will necessarily experience all these symptoms, in fact, some men experience very few of them which makes it all the more difficult to diagnose. However, the important thing to remember is that depression, regardless of its severity, is treatable.
The ideal solution is to go see a licensed healthcare professional, preferably one who knows your history of prior psychological stresses and problems. Depending on the severity, the least invasive treatment option could be exercise and meditation, for instance, yoga. Other options could include antidepressants prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist or therapy.
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Helping Wives with Postpartum Depression
Even if the man is not suffering from PPD, he has a significant role to play if his wife is struggling with the disorder. About 80 percent of women suffer some type of depression right after childbirth, typically associated with the biochemical changes within the body (University of Michigan). This depression can either be short term, typically referred to as “the blues," or it can be prolonged and lead to a rather severe form of depression.
The first thing to remember is that it's neither your fault nor hers, so if your relationship becomes temporarily strained, you must do your part to make life as comfortable as possible for her without getting frustrated. Here are some tips to help you both get through it:
If she just wants to vent, let her complain and listen to her patiently. Do not reason with her or be sympathetic, since she doesn't expect psychological counseling from you rather a shoulder to cry on.
Help her in whatever way you can, particularly in her day-to-day activities and household chores. If possible, get her a good book, encourage her to watch TV or relax for a while in the tub. Reassure her that you can take care of the house and the baby while she takes a break.
Pamper your wife and make her feel special since she is most likely feeling very vulnerable through her depression. Keep reminding her that it's just a difficult time and it will pass. In the meantime, make sure your own mental health remains intact since you need to be stronger for the both of you. Exercise regularly and spend some time in meditating activities.
Seek Professional Help
If you’re not having any success dealing with your wife’s depression, there is no reason to hold back from seeking professional help. There are different therapy-channels such as individual counseling and support groups. Along with therapy, proper medication can also effectively treat postpartum depression.
NB: The content of this article on men and postpartum depression is for information purposes only and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.
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Mountain View Hospital. (2000). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from: http://www.mtnviewhospital.com/Health%20Information%20Library/post_partum_depression.htm
Newsweek: Christina Gillham. (2009). Understanding Male Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from: http://www.newsweek.com/2009/04/06/understanding-male-post-partum-depression.html
NPR: Joanne Silberner. (2010). Study Finds Dads Suffer Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126905558
Today's Parent: Vanessa Milne. (2010). Is Dad Suffering From Postpartum Depression? Retrieved from: http://www.todaysparent.mobi/Article.aspx?scrapeURL=content=20100531_172030_12356&page=1&cat=Parent%20Time
Postpartum Men. Helping Men Beat The Baby Blues And Overcome Depression. Retrieved from: http://www.postpartummen.com/depression.htm
Piedmont Hospital. (2007). Postpartum Depression: Some Dads May Be at Risk. Retrieved from: http://www.piedmonthospital.org/diw/Content.asp?PageID=DIW008991
University of Michigan. Women and Depression: Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from: http://www.depressioncenter.org/women/postpartum.asp
USA News, Health. (2008). Postpartum Depression Strikes New Fathers, Too. Retrieved from: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/sexual-and-reproductive-health/articles/2008/05/21/postpartum-depression-strikes-new-fathers-too