Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect new mothers. In fact, new dads are also susceptible to depression after the birth of a child. Here’s what you need to know about paternal postnatal depression.
Most people would associate postpartum depression with new mothers, as postnatal depression has been studied predominantly in women throughout the years. But what if we told you that new fathers can get postpartum depression too? While research in paternal postpartum depression may not be as extensive historically, recent studies highlight that new fathers can experience depression after their child’s birth. Here’s what you need to know…
Everything to know about postpartum depression in men
What is paternal postpartum depression?
Paternal postpartum depression, also known as paternal postnatal depression or PPD, is a mental illness that affects fathers after a pregnancy. According to the National Institute of Health in the United States, PPD affects between four and 25 percent of new dads. In another study, around 13 percent of fathers display symptoms within two to six months after the birth of their child. To date, there isn’t any recorded data on paternal postpartum depression in Singapore. But that doesn’t mean it’s uncommon or “not real”.
What causes postpartum depression in men?
Similar to maternal postpartum depression, many factors can trigger PPD in men. There’s also another startling discovery that couples may want to take note of: it’s been said that the probability of PPD increases by as much as 2.5 times if the female partner also experiences postnatal depression. Now that’s a combo that no parents want to have…
Stress is often attributed as the leading cause of PPD. It’s an accumulation of adjusting to their new identity and responsibilities, thinking about the financial costs of being a new parent, and wanting to be a good parent. All of these can lead to paternal postpartum depression. A 2014 study notes that PPD among new dads increases up to 68 percent during the first five years of bub’s life. Yikes!
Symptoms of paternal postpartum depression
Some common symptoms of postpartum depression in men include:
- Either not enough or too much sleep
- Working much more than usual
- Anger, agitation, and/or irritability
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, or frustration
- Losing interest in activities they typically enjoy
Yes, the above symptoms can be similar to maternal postpartum depression. However, there are also other specific symptoms that might become apparent in postpartum depression in men. These can include:
- Feeling excluded from the relationship between spouse and newborn
- Being distant/withdrawn from loved ones
- Lack of interest in sexual activities
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Increased aggressivity
- Suffering from panic attacks or extreme anxiety
Due to gender and societal expectations, men are more likely to conceal their depression, which is why PPD is harder to detect. Thus, looking out for any sign of something unusual or out of character is key to spotting PPD. More often than not, it’s been the new mothers who could pick up the symptoms of paternal postpartum depression displayed by their partners. Author Kim Hooper wrote of her experience in The New York Times, showing how common this mental issue is nowadays.
How will PPD affect a father’s relationship with their child?
If left untreated, paternal postnatal depression can have serious repercussions. Depressed dads are said to be less involved with their kids. The lack of interaction could increase the likelihood of behavioural issues in the younglings later on in life. (We reckon that’s where the term “daddy issues” comes from…) Research has also suggested that fathers suffering from paternal postpartum depression are less likely to read to their children. This, in turn, affects how kiddos pick up language skills.
Is there any treatment for paternal postnatal depression?
Unfortunately in Singapore, there aren’t any protocols to screen new fathers for this disorder or programmes to support those suffering from the illness. But dads, that doesn’t mean you should remain silent about it. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, we strongly encourage you to speak to your spouse. Through good times and bad times, right? Alternatively, if mummies spot any signs of PPD in their partners, take the initiative and start the conversation. Will the daddies open up? Maybe not initially, but it’ll let them know they have someone to lean on.
Counselling and therapy, alongside medication (if necessary), are the best options to treat depression. There are also online resources and support groups where fathers can seek information, advice, and even share their feelings anonymously. Also, get more – and better – sleep. Easier said than done with a new baby, we know, but lack of sleep is oft-cited as the major cause of postpartum depression (in both men and women).
You don’t have to suffer alone
The impending arrival of your newborn and parenthood should be exciting times to look forward to. However, we also understand the pressures that come along with it. Having PPD is not an indication that you’re not a great dad. Don’t try to suppress what you’re feeling just because you’re “a man”. Depression is an illness, not a weakness. Talk about it with your partner and get the help you need. You are not alone.
You can do this, dads!