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Childbirth can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions in the parents, especially if it’s their first child. From feelings of joy and excitement to nervousness and anxiety, the arrival of a new member of the family can be a taxing endeavor. However, the one emotion that a new parent may least expect is depression, especially in the father. So, what is postpartum depression for men and what do you need to know about it? Let’s take a look down below.
What is postpartum depression in men?
You can define postpartum depression in men as an intense episode of major depressive disorder which occurs soon after the birth of a child. Postpartum depression (PPD) is most commonly associated with mothers, but it can happen to fathers as well.
Often the issue of postpartum depression in males is overlooked as mothers are more susceptible to “baby blues.” Unfortunately, the awareness surrounding postpartum depression for men is not as common as it is for women. In reality, PPD can catch up to any new parent, regardless of their gender.
Up to 1 in 4 men will experience postpartum depression, but only 10% of cases of postpartum depression in men are reported. Unlike the normal stress that every parent faces after the birth of a child, PPD is a clinical condition.
Read the article Postpartum Depression symptoms – What you need to know!
Why does it affect men?
The reason that it affects men is that childbirth is a shared experience for both partners. One may wonder, if the mother is the one who goes through all the difficulties of labor, why does PPD affect men?
Several factors can contribute to postpartum depression in men. Some of these are:
- Sleepless nights and a lack of rest after a child is born.
- Change in hormones.
- Poor relationship with spouse.
- Excessive worry about becoming a new parent.
- Poor diet or a history of drug abuse.
- Unwanted or complicated pregnancy.
- Relationship stress, with either the partner or the in-laws.
- A lack of support from others.
- A personal history of depression or other mental illnesses.
- Economic issues or limited resources.
- Lack of attention from your partner after the birth of your child.
Another factor that can contribute to PPD in the father is PPD in the mother. Half of the men whose wives are suffering from postpartum depression will undergo depression as well.
Although postpartum depression for men is a serious condition, fortunately it is also highly treatable. However, if left unnoticed, it can cause long-term damage and consequences to not only for the father, but for the whole family.
Symptoms in men
Symptoms of postpartum depression in men can be different from women. However, normal stress after childbirth does not automatically translate to PPD.
So, how can you tell if a new father is going through normal stress or PPD? Here are a few common symptoms of PPD in men:
- Anger, irritability, or aggressive behavior.
- A loss of interest in hobbies/activities.
- Constant feelings of discouragement of frustration.
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or being overwhelmed.
- Increased use of drugs such as alcohol or other addictive substances.
- Significant weight loss or weight gain.
- An increase in physical problems such as digestion problems or pain.
- Increased conflicts with the spouse.
- Risky or impulsive behavior, such as reckless driving.
- Decreased performance at work or school.
- Shortness of breath or panic attacks.
- Feeling out of control.
- Memory problems and difficulty remembering things.
- Even when you’re exhausted, you cannot sleep.
- Sudden shifts in mood and feeling overwhelmed all of a sudden.
- Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
These symptoms may start to occur in men during the first year after the child is born.
Consequences for the family
Postpartum depression not only affects the father, but the whole family.
The impacts of PPD in men on the partner and child are considerable and sometimes lasting. Some of the common consequences might include:
- A restriction in going out and partaking in leisure activities. Seeing other people less often.
- A fall in the family income and economic status.
- Considerable strain on the marital relationship between the two partners.
- An increase in depression in the other partner.
Other than these, a child’s development is also hindered. A few common problems include:
- Difficulties in interactions between the father and child.
- Withdrawn or disengaged behavior for the child.
- Intrusive and hostile communication between father and child.
- Responding less sensitively to the needs of children.
Such behaviors of neglect and aggression can lead to the following deficits in child development:
- Adverse effect on the child’s cognitive performance.
- Poor emotional adjustment in children.
- An elevated rate of insecurities later in childhood.
- Disturbance in the child’s secure attachment with the father. This makes children more susceptible to developing mental illnesses such as depression in later years.
- A higher chance for the child to be rated as behaviorally disturbed by teachers in school.
Postpartum depression, if not treated, can lead to problems – especially in the child’s development. It’s an issue that affects not only the person undergoing it, but the whole family as well.
Treatments for Postpartum Depression in men
Treatments for postpartum depression include therapy, medications, and some self-care tips.
Postpartum depression in men usually goes away on its own within three months of childbirth. However, if your symptoms seem severe and interfere with your daily functioning, then you should seek the advice of a therapist.
Often psychotherapy alone is enough for treatment. However, depending on your severity, your psychiatrist may prescribe you some medications. The option of hospitalization is also available, but only for critical cases.
In any condition, it is better to seek treatment as soon as possible so it doesn’t damage your health, relationships, or your child’s development. Let’s take a look at how these treatment options can help you.
As PPD for men can be as severe as clinical depression, therapy can be of great help.
You don’t have to prepare anything special before therapy. Your doctor will discuss some topics related to your condition, such as what are your feelings? Are you overwhelmed? What beliefs do you hold about your new child? Do you have any history of mental illnesses? How is your life now? Etc.
After these questions are over, your therapy will start. The most common approaches used in talk therapy are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy.
In CBT, your therapist helps you to identify and correct your distortive thinking behaviors. Furthermore, they teach you new coping mechanisms that you can use to counter your stressful emotions.
In Interpersonal therapy, your therapist will help you to assess and improve your relationships. It will take you some time, but treatment will work wonders so you can start enjoying your new child.
Often your therapist will prescribe some short-term medications to boost the results. Antidepressants are designed to treat any sort of depression, including PPD in men.
Medications work especially well for treating sleep and diet problems as they will work to restore different chemical imbalances in your brain. If you don’t have any issues with meds, you can ask your healthcare provider to prescribe you some antidepressants.
If medicine is not your thing, you can always try alternative treatments which may benefit some people more. Such treatments include:
- Yoga exercises: Yoga can help you move your body and calm your mind. This helps you to fight stress and stay calm and relaxed.
- Relaxation techniques: Breathing or stretching techniques can help you immediately release tension and get back to feeling normal.
- Meditation: Meditating can effectively help us control our thoughts and achieve calmness of mind.
Self-care tips for postpartum depression for men
After you’ve consulted with your doctor, here are a few things you can do on your own to help yourself.
- Set aside time for yourself: Take some time off, go outside once a while, and do activities you enjoy. Taking occasional breaks will help you deal with burnout.
- Share your feelings: Bottling up your emotions will make your condition worse. Share your feelings with your loved ones and get support wherever you can.
- Stay physically tuned: Pay special attention to your sleep schedule. Make quality meals a priority and exercise to release stress and feel better.
- Join support groups: Exchanging your feelings and experiences helps a lot – especially with people who are going through the same things as you. Support groups can help you unwind and find better ways of coping.
Postpartum depression is as real for men as it is for women. Some form of stress is always anticipated with the arrival of your newborn. However, if your depression isn’t going away even after a couple of weeks, then this could indicate Postpartum depression. If you find yourself in similar circumstances, remember that you can always reach out and get help from others. Doing so will make sure your depression stays at bay and you can go back to enjoying your blessing of becoming a father.