One thing most parents can agree on: Adjusting to parenthood is one of life’s biggest challenges. All the crying and fussing. Sleepless nights for weeks on end. Putting your own needs on the back burner. All of this can wear you out—and even lead to depression.
“A new baby in the family can be both a joyous and stressful time for the family,” says Christopher Guerrero, MD, MPH, MD, MPH, board-certified psychiatrist at Franciscan Health Dyer and Hammond. “We’ve known this when it comes to new mothers. But it’s also true for new fathers.”
Men are more likely to develop depression after the birth of a child than at any other time in life. One in 10 fathers experiences paternal postpartum depression, or PPPD. But while doctors regularly monitor mothers for postpartum depression, men aren’t likely to be screened for this mental health condition.
Here’s what you need to know to spot the signs of postpartum depression in dads and get the help you need:
Recognize Risk Factors for Paternal Postpartum Depression
Most parents feel overwhelmed by the changes a baby brings to their lives. Fathers might express feeling trapped, or that life will always revolve around the demands of their new child. Fathers can also feel isolated as mothers become engrossed in childrearing and bonding with the new baby. While it’s normal for these thoughts to come and go, persistent feelings of isolation, exclusion and hopelessness can lead to PPPD.
Although any father is susceptible to depression, Dr. Guerrero said certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing this mental health condition, including having:
Learn the Signs of Postpartum Depression in Men
Signs of postpartum depression in dads can differ from those found in new mothers. Common signs of PPPD include:
- Increased anger, irritability and anxiousness
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Feeling sad or “empty”
- Reduced ability to focus and concentrate
- Extreme fatigue
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Headaches, cramps or digestive problems
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits (either more or less)
Seek Help for PPPD—For the Health of Your Family
Depression is a crippling condition that affects everyone in the family. Dads with PPPD are less able to bond with children, which affects the kids as much as when mothers have postpartum depression. Research indicates that babies who live with depressed parents are more likely to develop behaviors in toddlerhood such as hitting, lying, and feeling anxious or sad.
“Caring for the mental health of fathers during the postpartum period is just as critical as addressing concerns with new moms,” Dr. Guerrero said.
If you’re concerned about postpartum depression in yourself or a loved one, seek professional help. Discuss your concerns with your doctor or make an appointment to talk with our behavioral health specialists.