Postpartum Depression in Men
Finding out how many men suffer from male postpartum depression is not an easy task, as it is not always recognized, and some physicians have never heard of it. This is compounded by the fact that fewer men than women will admit to being depressed. They hide their emotions and tend not to ask for help.
A Problem for Many Fathers
According to researchers at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, one in ten new fathers experience the baby blues. The figures are based on a comprehensive review of the scientific literature that took in 43 studies, involving more than 28 thousand patients from 16 different countries.
The depression is felt both during a partner’s pregnancy and in the first year after the birth of a child. The review found that depression often kicks in three to six months after birth. Some studies found that by this time up to 25% of new fathers can have post-natal depression. In the US that equates to as many as 3,000 new dads becoming depressed each day.
Symptoms of Male Postpartum Depression
For some fathers the sheer bliss and joy of welcoming a new addition to the household only lasts for a few weeks before other emotions kick in. Some of the symptoms of male postpartum depression are the same as those of general depression:
- Loss of interest in sex
- General feeling of unworthiness
- Feelings of sadness
- Increased irritability
- Easily stressed
- Loss of weight
- Loss of pleasure in hobbies
Men who have postpartum depression tend to deal with their symptoms in different ways to women. Therefore as the condition is frequently undiagnosed behavior changes can serve as useful warning signs that can tell you someone needs help. These include:
- Working constantly
- Risky driving
Why do Men Experience Postpartum Depression?
A number of reasons have been given as to why men experience male postpartum depression with triggers including lack of sleep and the sudden change in life with the new parental responsibilities. There are hormonal triggers too, according to Dr. Will Courtenay, a physiotherapist from California who specializes in helping men with postpartum depression. Estrogen levels go up and testosterone levels slide and these chemical fluctuations can cause male postpartum depression.
Help for Male Postpartum Depression
Male postpartum depression is a real problem that needs to be treated. If help is not sought there could be damaging long-term consequences for the individual, his spouse, their children and his employment and financial future.
Most men prefer to hide their pain, thinking that it is a sign of weakness to admit their problems and look for help. But nothing could be further from the truth. Admitting you have a problem and seeking help are signs of courage and strength. And what’s more male postpartum depression is completely treatable.
Experts such as Dr. Courtenay recommend that men seek out the help of a licensed mental health professional (preferably one that is used to working with men) to discuss the range of available options. These can include some of the basic treatments for depression such as gentle exercise and meditation.
If you don’t know where to find a mental health professional you can locate one through your general practitioner, men’s groups and father’s groups, your local church, a hospital, and family care services in your neighborhood.
Couples can address the problem of male postpartum depression in a number of ways. For example, if the man has a history of depression, the help of a mental health professional should be sought before the birth of the child. If the couple has a difficult relationship then experts recommend they should seek guidance before the new baby arrives on the scene.
And if there are stressors such as finances these should not be ignored. Incomes and outgoings can be looked at and a budget set to help alleviate anxiety.
With help and guidance men don’t have suffer in silence. The resources are in place to help them banish those serious baby blues.
- James F. Paulson; Sharnail D. Bazemore
Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Fathers and Its Association With Maternal Depression: A Meta-analysis
JAMA, May 19, 2010; 303: 1961 - 1969.
- Understanding Male Postpartum Depression by Christina Gillham - Newsweek, April 07, 2009
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