Although having a baby is typically a time for celebration, raising a child is never easy. Even though there’s joy in watching your child laugh, saying their first words, or taking their first steps, many new parents struggle with mental health.
In fact, research shows about 10% of fathers suffer from postpartum depression, an affliction that’s sometimes referred to as paternal postpartum depression (PPPD). Unfortunately, PPPD may afflict even more than 10% of new fathers, as many cases simply go unreported.
Postpartum depression can occur within days of your baby’s birth, but some fathers experience it as late as three to six months after delivery. So, if you’re struggling with your mood, energy levels, or mental health after having a child, know that you’re not alone.
Although many new dads don’t discuss it, many of them are also wrestling with their own mental health.
Read on for additional support for postpartum depression in men!
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression in Men
Dangers of Postpartum Depression
Risk Factors For Postpartum Depression In Men
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression In Men
Find A Pittsburgh Postpartum Depression Therapist for Men
Paternal postpartum depression can appear through a variety of unwelcome symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression in men include:
- Irritability – This irritability can stem from a variety of sources, including changes in hormones, lack of sleep, or challenges in adapting to new and shifting relationships after the birth of your child.
- Anger – Irritability is closely linked to anger. Like irritability, anger can stem from hormonal shifts, fatigue, relationships, and other sources.
- Sudden outbursts or violent behavior – Becoming a father for the first time is filled with a variety of challenging first-time experiences. If you’re not equipped to manage those new challenges, you could react with sudden outbursts that could potentially harm the people you love.
- Suicidal thoughts – As we discussed in our tips for postpartum depression self care blog, suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be common among those managing postpartum depression. The Alexis Joy Foundation, for example, which is located in the Pittsburgh region, was founded after a young new mom committed suicide—and now it exists to support new moms and their families.
- Physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches and digestion issues – Postpartum depression isn’t all mental. You could also experience physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pains, and even general fatigue throughout your body.
- Substance abuse – It’s not uncommon for overwhelmed parents to turn to alcohol and other drugs as a coping mechanism for the newfound stressors of parenthood.
- Low motivation – Depression can cut away at your motivation in all areas of life—at work, home, and even with your own family.
- Impaired concentration – Between depression, stress, and general lack of sleep, you may find it difficult to focus in the months after having a baby.
- Withdrawing from relationships – We commonly see people who struggle with postpartum depression separate themselves from the ones they love. They may also struggle to communicate their feelings to friends and relatives, causing them to feel even more isolated, which we’ll discuss next.
- Feelings of isolation – The intense feelings of isolation can become overwhelming for new parents, leading and contributing to postpartum depression.
- Loss of individuality and sense of self – Becoming a new parent can be a difficult transition for many people, especially as much of the time you would typically spend on hobbies and having fun is now dedicated to nurturing your child.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms after the birth of your child, contact a licensed therapist immediately or talk to a medical professional. Allowing PPPD to fester can cause long-term damage to your physical health, your career, your relationship with your partner, or even your relationship with your child—as we’ll explain in the next section.
Leaving postpartum depression untreated can lead to a variety of negative outcomes for both the parent and the child, research shows.
Some of the biggest potential issues of PPPD include:
1. Less attention to the baby’s health and well-being – PPPD can cause fathers to become disengaged with their children’s health, even when the baby is actively fussing or crying. This can cause issues like diaper rash or hunger to spiral into bigger issues, like infections or malnourishment-related diseases.
2. Physical and mental health problems in the child – Children who’ve grown up neglected or abused are more likely to experience physical and mental health issues throughout childhood and even into adulthood. Paying close attention to your child and offering consistent comfort and care is good for their long-term health.
3. Decline in relationships – Postpartum depression can interfere with connecting with your partner, child, and other loved ones. Allowing postpartum depression to continue can create a wedge in these relationships that’s difficult to overcome. It’s critical to continue making time for the people you love.
4. Physical danger – PPPD can lead to self-harm and suicidal thoughts or behavior. But it can also cause depressed or stressed fathers to lash out at their partners or children, putting their loved ones in harm’s way. Managing the most extreme emotions of postpartum depression can help protect your loved ones.
5. Behavioral issues – Children who have grown up around parents with postpartum depression may eventually display a variety of behavioral issues as they enter their toddler years or prepare to enter kindergarten.
Learning to identify these dangers before and while they occur can help you protect yourself, your child, your spouse, and other loved ones. If you spot any of these issues throughout the day, immediately remove yourself from the situation and seek professional support.
There are a variety of reasons men may experience PPPD after the birth of their child. Some of the most common reasons new fathers experience postpartum depression include:
1. Hormonal Changes – Research shows many men undergo declines in testosterone and estradiol during their partner’s pregnancy and even after birth. Testosterone is critical for energy levels, mood, and libido, while estradiol is an important sex hormone critical for libido and sexual health. A decrease in these hormones can disrupt a man’s mental and physical health, contributing to PPPD.
2. Attachment Disorders – Men who had trouble forming relationships with their parents while they were growing up—or who have struggled to form meaningful relationships throughout their life—may be more likely to experience postpartum depression. Over time, those past relationships could prevent the father from bonding with their child.
3. Partner’s Depression – In 50% of relationships in which the mother experiences postpartum depression, the father also experiences PPPD, research shows. In some cases, they may even experience similar symptoms. Be open and honest with your partner about mental health, and lend each other support every day.
4. Sleep Deprivation – Sleep is critical to everything from mood to hormones to immune health. Unfortunately, new parents rarely achieve enough sleep. In fact, only 10% of new parents sleep at least seven hours per night. On average, each new parent loses almost two hours (109 minutes) per night until their baby learns to sleep through the night. As we’ll discuss later, there are strategies you can use to get high-quality sleep every night.
5. Feeling Disconnected – Our American culture prioritizes mothers and babies after birth, and many mothers assume the role of primary caregiver. This can unintentionally reduce the one-on-one time fathers get to spend with their babies—potentially harming the father’s relationship with both the mother and the child. If you’re feeling disconnected, be sure to explain your feelings to your spouse so you can spend more direct time with your child.
6. Pre-existing Mental Health Issues or Family History of Depression – Men who have any sort of history of anxiety, depression, or mental illness are more likely to experience postpartum depression.
If you have any of these risk factors, don’t immediately stress; it is not a guarantee that you’ll experience postpartum depression. However, it is never a problem to enter therapy preemptively to give yourself additional tools.
If you’re experiencing postpartum depression, here are some of the most common options for treatment:
1. Go to therapy – Receiving postpartum depression counseling from an experienced postpartum depression therapist can help you isolate the root causes of your depression—and then work to overcome these challenges to move forward.
To learn more about your options, check out our Pittsburgh Postpartum Depression Therapists.
2. Take your medication – If you’ve been prescribed antidepressants or other medications by a doctor, continue to take them as directed. When you’re under extreme stress, skipping doses can exacerbate existing problems.
If you feel like your medicine is interfering with your overall health or that your dosage is too low, immediately consult with your doctor. Do not try to manage your medication on your own!
3. Get support from family and friends – Parenthood can feel isolating and overwhelming in the early days, especially as your baby demands more and more of your focus and energy. Call on family and friends to help care for the baby or even give you a chance to get out of the house. Receiving help from family and friends can help you reclaim your sense of self and give you a much-needed break!
And don’t be afraid to schedule help. Asking a family member to visit every Tuesday and a friend to visit every Thursday could be the regular relief you need to keep yourself mentally healthy through the most difficult months of becoming a parent.
4. Make time for your relationship – Many new parents struggle to spend quality time as a couple, but continuing to foster your relationship is critical for your mental health and family life. Pick a day on the calendar, hire a babysitter (or ask a friend for help), and spend time with your partner doing something you both love.
This is also a good time to focus on communication. Take this opportunity to reconnect, discuss how things are going, and check in with each other as a person.
5. Rely on self-care – Proper postpartum depression self-care is critical for recovery. Leaning on family and friends, eating well, taking care of your body, taking your medication, and attending therapy can provide a tremendous boost to your mental health.
That said, you know yourself better than anyone else. If there’s something you did to unwind before having a child, continue using that release to manage your stress levels in the future.
6. Get good sleep – New parents frequently complain about not getting enough sleep, and many don’t realize just how sleep-deprived they really are. Poor sleep can hamper everything from energy levels to mood, so finding extra time to nap or going to bed a little earlier can make you a happier person throughout the day.
While it’s common for parents to throw a monitor into the bedroom and get up whenever the baby cries, other successful alternatives include:
- Sleeping in shifts so that each parent gets 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
- Alternating nights so one person is sleeping in the same room as the baby and the other is sleeping in the bedroom without interruptions.
Talk to your partner about what is best for your unique situation, and remember: This is temporary! Your baby may start sleeping through the entire night by month three or four (but this can vary by baby).
7. Join a dad group or parenting group. There’s strength in communities, and support groups built around fellow dads or parents can help you gain perspective, resources, and a network of cheerleaders.
For ideas on where to look, talk to your therapist or pediatricians for recommendations. In Pittsburgh, fatherhood support groups can be incredibly beneficial! Plus, other dads can give you valuable tips on how to better manage your stressors and postpartum depression.
Find A Pittsburgh Postpartum Depression Therapist for Men
If you’re looking for a Pittsburgh Postpartum Depression Therapist, reach out to us! Our experienced therapists are available to give you the support you need. Contact us today, or check out one of our caring, experienced therapists: