Postpartum Depression in Men: Helping Dads Cope

Most of us have heard of postpartum depression in women, but did you know it can also affect fathers?! Figures vary depending on the source, but it's estimated that for every two women that have postpartum depression, one man will have PPPD (paternal postpartum depression), and approximately 25% of new fathers (though only 10% of cases are reported) will develop PPPD. Most cases of paternal postpartum depression get missed because (1) postpartum depression in men is not well known or understood and (2) doctors don't screen fathers for postpartum depression like they do women.

Note: Though this article focuses on postpartum depression, men can also suffer from other perinatal mood disorders (develop during pregnancy or after the birth of a child). These disorders might include anxiety (including OCD), PTSD, etc.

Why Do Dads Get Postpartum Depression?

Being a new parent is a wonderful experience, but it can also be an emotionally, physically, and psychologically taxing rollercoaster ride. While moms often get support from other moms by venting or asking advice, men often don't know who to talk to when the stresses of parenting get overwhelming. Dads may feel unprepared once the 24/7 challenges arise and parenting begins to look much different from what they expected. Lack of sleep, previous history of depression, lack of parenting and child development knowledge, expectations from one's spouse and self of household duties, work stress, etc., are some of the factors that contribute to PPD in men. Also, if one partner has a perinatal mood disorder, the other partner is at a higher risk for developing a mood disorder because of the increased stress on the family.

According to Kyle Pruett, MD, in his November 19, 2019 webinar "Listening to Fathers" for the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, research studies have shown that there are also startling biological changes in men both pre-delivery and post-delivery of a baby: hormone-wise, there are increased oxytocin levels, even in adoptive fathers; testosterone levels drop, and estrogen levels go up. Evidence also shows that men respond biologically/emotionally to children just as mothers do. For example, a father's heart rate will change when listening to or trying to calm a colicky baby.

What are the symptoms of PPD in men?

The symptoms for PPD are a little different for men than for women. PPD in men comes on a little later than for women, and symptoms include sadness, loss of energy/fatigue, irritability, being less communicative, folding in on oneself, turning to substance abuse, and working long hours to be away from the stress at home.

Resources for Dads Suffering with Postpartum Depression

Luckily, the standard screening tool for identifying postpartum depression, the EPDS or Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, has been authorized for use with men as well as with women. A score of five or higher warrants a conversation with your doctor or a mental health professional, or at the very least, implementing self-help or self-care practices. A score of 10 or higher is concerning, and you should seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible (immediately if you answer anything other than "Never" on the question about self-harm thoughts).

Help Me Grow Utah offers the Edinburgh Screening to parents during pregnancy or after the birth of a child. You can take this screening online at bit.ly/EdinburghHMG, we can send you a paper copy, or we even do the screening over the phone with you. When we get the results, we will follow up with you to share resources and information to help you get feeling better.

Common treatments include talk therapy with a professional, anti-depressants, and appropriate self-care, including regular exercise, sleep, healthy eating, etc. It is also important for couples to have open communication about both of their needs instead of suffering in silence and/or getting angry or resentful. postpartummen.com is a website specifically for men with postpartum depression that you may find helpful.

Support Groups

Chat with an Expert for Dads (Sponsored by Postpartum Support International)
Telephone-based support group. First Monday of Each Month. Facilitated by a board certified psychologist whose research and practice focus on men's mental health during the transition to fatherhood.
https://www.postpartum.net/get-help/resources-for-fathers/chat-with-an-expert-for-dads/

The Man Cave – A Man's Group for Perinatal Years (Sponsored by The Healing Group)
Online support group. 2nd Wednesday of each month at 8 pm, with an additional quarterly meet up. Meetings are led by a therapist. This group can also support men wanting to support their partners through postpartum depression.
https://www.thehealinggroup.com/upcoming-events/2018/6/5/the-man-cave-a-mans-group-for-perinatal-years-hscjc-ek9n6-ncydk-dbxep-94lym-s8yt2-e2ewy-fbspy-bebck-snhw4-knm9y-wp9hk

Postpartum depression should be taken seriously, both in moms and in dads. Treatment is essential for the long-term emotional and physical health of the parents, children, and the overall family dynamic. The good news is that postpartum depression is treatable with time and attention, and with increased awareness of the condition, more resources are becoming available to dads.

References

https://www.postpartumdepression.org/postpartum-depression/men/

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Sunday, 27 September 2020

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