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An Overlooked Reality: Understanding Postpartum Depression in Dads

In our present society, it is rarely talked about maternal postpartum depression, so imagine how much is talked about dad’s experiences of postpartum depression! It is essential to raise awareness of both parental experiences, as they are there and they will be there no matter if we talk about them or not.

What is Paternal Postpartum Depression?
Paternal postpartum depression is a type of depression that can occur in fathers after the birth of their child. While typically associated with mothers, studies show that approximately 10% of new fathers experience PPD, with symptoms appearing anytime within the first year postpartum. The prevalence may be even higher among fathers who have partners experiencing postpartum depression.

Symptoms to Look Out For
The symptoms of paternal postpartum depression can differ from those typically associated with maternal PPD. Some of the common signs include:

  • Irritability: Increased frustration or anger over seemingly minor issues.
  • Fatigue: Chronic exhaustion that doesn’t improve with rest.
  • Anxiety: Persistent worry about the baby’s health, the role of fatherhood, or other life stressors.
  • Withdrawal: Pulling away from social interactions or family activities.
  • Changes in Eating or Sleeping Patterns: Sudden changes in appetite or sleep habits.
  • Feelings of Guilt or Inadequacy: Feeling like a failure as a father or partner.
  • Substance Abuse: Turning to alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.
  • Loss of Interest: Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities.

Causes and Risk Factors
The causes of paternal postpartum depression are multifaceted and can include a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors:

  • Hormonal Changes: Just like mothers, fathers can experience hormonal changes after the birth of their child, including fluctuations in testosterone and cortisol levels.
  • Sleep Deprivation: The lack of restful sleep can significantly impact mental health, leading to increased stress and emotional instability.
  • Relationship Strain: The demands of a new baby can put additional stress on a relationship, leading to feelings of isolation or inadequacy.
  • Financial Pressure: The financial burden of having a new child can exacerbate stress and anxiety.
  • Previous Mental Health Issues: Fathers with a history of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues are at higher risk of experiencing PPD.
  • Partner’s Depression: Having a partner who is experiencing postpartum depression increases the likelihood of the father also developing depressive symptoms.

As a side note and impression from me:
I have spoken to a lot of Dads and Moms who feel unrecognised and misunderstood by society. Both are aware of the different experiences they are going through as a mother and as a father. Things that society itself should consider are:

  • There is still a lot of stigma around men showing their emotions and being vulnerable.
  • Asking for help as a parent is overall a sensitive topic, as many do not feel the right to ask for help. They should be perfect parents.
  • There is a reality behind what we see, and dads can envie the fact that moms can feed their children and have this contact-to-contact relationship much deeper and sooner than them.

There are still a lot of things to uncover with this topic, and the first step is to recognize that paternal postpartum depression happens both for moms and dads and resources for support are needed for everyone.

References:
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/15579883211024375

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032721005322

Yousef, I., Javed, H. A., Naeem, R., & Ikram, A. (2023). Exploring the Manifestation of Post-Partum Depression in Men. Pakistan Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences11(3), 3636-3648.