We talk a lot about the monumental change that having a baby is for a mother, but I want to take a minute to reflect on the fact that fathers go through this life-changing experience as well. Not only do they now have a little baby that relies on them and their partner for survival, but his wife changes as well with the arrival of a little one. If his wife also has postpartum depression, the changes in her may be even more significant. I was speaking to a friend the other day, and she said her struggle with ppd ruined her marriage. She didn’t realise she had ppd until after they had already separated. I have another friend who shared with me that her husband struggled with postpartum depression. Say what? Yes, you read that right. Men can struggle with postpartum depression, too. In fact, 1 in 10 new dads in Australia struggle with ppd and up to 25% in the USA. Also important to note, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, dads with partners that struggle with postpartum depression are 50% more likely to struggle with it themselves.
The combination of sleep deprivation, less down time to relax, and the pressures of caring for a newborn are contributing factors for dads that struggle with postpartum depression. In the same way that mothers need to have an awareness of the signs and symptoms of ppd, dads should also be aware and seek help if needed. Mothers are at the doctor or midwife quite often after the birth of their child, so the caregivers have more opportunities to screen their mental health and make sure they’re ok. Fathers, after the first few weeks, oftentimes go back to work or do not have the opportunity to go to doctors appointments. Thus, testing a dad for ppd is more difficult with out the family having some awareness of how the new changes are affecting everyone.
Symptoms of postpartum depression in dads include:
- Loss of interest in things they once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite
- Fear of caring for the baby
- Using alcohol or drugs to escape or cope
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
So what do you do if you think your husband or partner may have postpartum depression? First, whether you struggle yourself or not, be aware that he needs support. Try to listen and understand where he’s coming from. If you’re struggling yourself, having compassion may not be difficult, but know that you will both need support and a team mentality will help in getting through this challenging time more smoothly. Also be aware that resentment can grow between you both during the season of having a newborn. If this happens, it doesn't mean your marriage is over, but finding support is vital to communicating through it.
If you or your partner are struggling with your mental health, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or health care provider.
Do you know any dads who have battled postpartum depression or anxiety? What’s the one piece of advice you could give to those supporting them? Comment below. I love to hear from you.