About 10% of men worldwide showed signs of depression from the first trimester of their wife's pregnancy through six months after the child was born.
Having a baby is a moment of joy, but the days that follow after that are not always so smooth-sailing. Children, in their initial years, require a lot of care and attention, which means that parents and caregivers have to adjust their lifestyle and routine accordingly. Life before a baby is very different from life after one. Child-rearing is exhausting—physically and mentally. Parents and caregivers can only prepare themselves and seek help whenever they need it.
According to a survey conducted by CDC, one in eight new moms experience postpartum depressive symptoms since their infant’s birth. While postpartum depression has been associated with women and there is a recommendation for universal screening of pregnant women and new mothers for postpartum depression, what often gets ignored is that men and new dads too can experience postpartum depression.
In fact, paternal postnatal depression is “wildly common,” says psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, according to Cleveland Clinic. About 10% of men worldwide showed signs of depression from the first trimester of their wife's pregnancy through six months after the child was born. The number rose up to a whopping 26 percent during the three- to the six-month period after the baby's arrival, per Healthline.
"That's more than twice the rate of depression we usually see in men," explains James F. Paulson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia, and lead author of the survey, which assessed 43 studies of more than 28,000 fathers worldwide. "The fact that so many expecting and new dads go through it makes it a significant public-health concern—one that physicians and mental-health providers have largely overlooked."
Statistics show that more men die by suicide than women and there are studies that reveal that new dads are at risk of suicide due to postpartum depression. In her article in The New York Times, Kim Hooper shares her own story about how her husband experienced postpartum depression after she gave birth. "I’d never thought about the possibility of men struggling with depression after the birth of a child." She goes on to add, "Perhaps the fact that my husband was low on my list of concerns contributed to the problem, a problem that dramatically impacted the first three years of our family’s life."
Paternal postpartum depression could be a result of hormonal changes in new dads or a myriad of other social reasons eg. lack of support in parenting, feeling excluded in mother-infant bonding. The symptoms of postpartum depression are different in women and men. According to Sheehan D. Fisher, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, symptoms for men can differ. Some of the symptoms in men include insomnia, weight loss, loss of interest in activities, agitation, isolation amongst others. Moreover, while women mostly experience postpartum depression within four weeks after birth, for men this timeframe is expanded up to over a year.
Maternal postpartum is spoken about widely and recognised as a health issue with screenings easily available. But various factors make it hard to accept that men may be facing similar issues. Viewing men as lazy and as people who are incable of taking care of children and therefore, shrugging off their duties and responsibilities is one of the biases that prevent men from seeking help. Stigma attached to depression and expecting men to be strong in every situation making it hard for them to express their vulnerability—these can also prevent them from seeking help when they need it. “But there’s nothing shameful about postpartum depression,” Dr. Bea stresses. “Fatherhood is a huge new job, with long hours and no pay, and society doesn’t do a good enough job supporting men in this role.”
We need a real shift in attitude that can normalise seeking help whenever anyone needs it in addition to making mental healthcare accessible for everyone. “Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re helpless,” Dr. Bea points out. We need to work on undoing the stigma and recognise that anyone and everyone can need support with their mental health irrespective of their gender. Perhaps only then both parents will be included in conversation around postpartum depression.
Cover Image Source (Representative): Getty Images | monkeybusinessimagesDisclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.