Most people understand the gravity of female postpartum depression, but there’s increasing evidence to suggest that fathers are vulnerable to the condition, too.
First, let’s define PPD: According to the American Psychological Association, postpartum depression is a serious mood disorder experienced by one in seven women that can present immediately or a few months after giving birth. Symptoms range from anxiety, a loss of appetite, a fear of caring for a baby, feelings of detachment from the infant or family and friends, and sadness, including intense periods of crying. The organization recommends that women seek professional help if symptoms are present for longer than two weeks.
However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, anywhere between two and 25 percent of fathers become depressed either during or after their partner’s pregnancy. While data quoted in the journal Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience show that anywhere from eight to 10 percent of dads develop PPD, although “the condition is less understood in men.” The study acknowledges there is no established criteria for male PPD, however it could unfold over a one-year period showing as “irritability, indecisiveness, and restricted range of emotion.” Men are most at risk for PPD if they have a history of depression, marital problems, live in poverty, or if the pregnancy in question was unintended.
The causes of male PPD aren’t well understood but one 2007 study flagged post-pregnancy hormonal changes in men (that are intended to help facilitate a father-child bond) as a contributing factor, along with a history of depression (in either parent) and poverty.
How does PPD feel for men? Last spring, eight diagnosed subjects opened up for researchers who published their work in the American Journal of Men’s Health. Becoming a father, they said, made them feel inadequate and overwhelmed, which led to frustration and anger. Four subjects described their journey as “a radical change that you just can’t imagine” with two stating, “Nobody tells you how hard it really is, and thank God for that, because then there wouldn’t be born any more children into this world.”
Researchers say paternal depression can be difficult for the whole household and trigger emotional and behavioral problems in children, therefore seeking professional help is crucial. In fact, dads should be screened and treated for postpartum depression, a process that is not fully utilized in the U.S., even for women. Whether or not men reach out, stated the American Journal of Men’s Health, depends in part on their knowledge of PPD and how much they fear being stigmatized.
Childbirth is nothing like in the movies, as these beautiful photos show.