Can Men Get Postpartum Depression?

Can Men Get Postpartum Depression?

Author: GIA Miami
Published: October 4, 2022

Postpartum depression is a mental health disorder usually associated with women after they give birth, however, men can experience this type of depression also. According to some studies, nearly one in ten fathers suffer from this illness, though many cases go undiagnosed due to a lack of screening, as well as the stigma around men's mental health.

It is equally important for fathers to take care of their child and partner as it is themselves. Any parent should pay close attention to their mental health when raising a child and be able to recognize they need help when dealing with postnatal depression.

Why Are the Causes of Paternal Postpartum Depression?

Biological men do not go through the physical aspect of childbirth, though the major lifestyle and mental changes that fathers go through can have a serious impact on someone's mental health. Bringing a child into this world can be an extremely rewarding experience. On the flip side, parenthood also brings along increased levels of stress, overwhelming emotions, and exhaustion. These factors can cause fathers to experience hormonal changes, contributing to an increased risk of psychological illness.

A strong support system is key during the prenatal and perinatal periods of parenthood. In many cases, the father is lacking this or doesn't know how to communicate their needs to their support system, contributing to an increased chance of developing postpartum depression symptoms.

There are many more factors that contribute to an increased risk of disease, these include:

  • Low or lack of social support 
  • Low income or financial stress 
  • History of depression or anxiety 
  • Other mental illnesses, such as substance misuse
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Relationship with mother
  • Mental health problems in the mother
  • Young paternal age
  • Living in a separate household from the child

Pregnancy and New Fathers

In most cases, new moms have a lot of time with their newborn allowing for intense bonding between the two. This is due to maternity leave, gender expectations, and still being in recovery from birth themselves. Before the birth of a child, the father is likely to have been the main focus of their partner. This new family member which requires a lot of attention can conjure up feelings of loneliness and rejection in new dads.

Additionally, the decreased amount of intimacy with their partner, sleep deprivation, and intense guilt caused by their inability to bond with the child can all heighten these negative feelings - leading to postpartum depression.

Men are commonly overlooked when it comes to mental health and this is especially true for a new father. The lack of support given when the new baby arrives when compared to their partner can lead to feelings of neglect and resentment, and feed further into the unreasonable gender expectations put upon them.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression in Men

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression in Men

Although feelings of exhaustion and stress are part of parenthood, if they persist, limit someone's ability to care for their child, or interfere with their daily tasks, it could be more serious than the regular challenges of this time. Symptoms of postpartum depression in men are extremely similar to major depressive disorder, though vary from person to person.

The timing that mothers and fathers experience prenatal and postpartum depression typically differs. After delivery, women usually show symptoms within four-to-six weeks, though in some cases signs can appear as late as three months. In men, symptoms of prenatal depression are highest during the first trimester and three-to-six months in the perinatal period. Men and women also present the disorder in different ways, with fathers typically; withdrawing from their family, extending their working hours, or losing interest in activities.

People may experience some or all of these common symptoms of parental depression, which include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities 
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • Excessive worry
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Loss of energy
  • Inability to concentrate or make decisions
  • A significant change in appetite 
  • Weight change
  • Inability to sleep
  • Unexplained aches or pains
  • Thoughts of suicide or death 
  • Intrusive thoughts of harming the baby

Paternal Postpartum Depression Diagnosis

After the birth of a child, women are commonly screened for maternal depression via their doctor. Men are not typically checked in on and tend to underreport their symptoms due to the stigma associated with men's mental health. This leads to most cases of male postpartum depression going undiagnosed and untreated for many months or years. Clinical depression in fathers is becoming better recognized, diagnosed, and treated - though there is still room to be made to ensure every father suffering can readily access treatment.

Why is Getting Tested for Parental Depression Important?

Early diagnosis and intervention are key in limiting the negative health effects of the condition on the father himself and his family members. When untreated, a parent's depression can have negative effects on their child's development and wellbeing by:

  • Not being able to pay enough attention to their baby's health and missing health check visits
  • Increasing the likelihood of behavioral problems for their children at preschool age
  • Increasing their risk for a physical or mental illness

Other Factors to Consider

Not treating, confronting, and understanding the disorder can also lead to a disharmony within a father's relationship with the child's mother - sometimes leading to anger, aggression, or violence in extreme cases.

If you are someone you know is experiencing persistent and ongoing symptoms of depression, try to notify close family or friends, a doctor, or a mental health professional to start the journey towards overcoming depression in the postpartum period. Depression unfortunately does not go away on its own. The sooner a mental health professional lays out a treatment plan, the sooner the symptoms of the difficult condition can be relieved.

How Do Mental Health Professionals Test for Paternal Depression?

Clinical questioning is a probable part of a diagnosis for depression. Experts either use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), or the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Both require a patient health questionnaire to review how severe the condition is presenting. Before making a diagnosis, other tests - such as blood analysis or family health history questionnaires - may also be conducted to rule out any other underlying conditions that may be causing the depression.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Seeking treatment for this disorder can be daunting, though early diagnosis and intervention are essential for the health of both the father and the overall family unit. The treatment approach for paternal postpartum depression is extremely individualistic: depending upon the severity of the disorder and the person's situation. Typically, people undergo therapy, are prescribed medication, or both.

Therapies and Other Interventions Used to Treat Postpartum Depression

There are a number of different therapies commonly used to ease the symptoms of depression. For the best outcomes, a father-tailored model should be considered when treating the condition. These interventions can include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)
  • Couples therapy

Alongside therapy, attending support groups and educational classes have also shown to be extremely helpful in overcoming paternal depression. This is especially true if the individual is lacking support from people in their lives.

Medication Used to Treat Postpartum Depression

Typically, serotonin reuptake inhibitors - or SSRIs - are used to treat depression. However, these drugs aren't the right option for every person as they can sometimes cause unwanted side effects. Thankfully, there are also a number of other medications that can be considered for treatment.

Every individual's brain functions very differently, so finding the right medication for each is mostly a journey of trial and error. If someone on antidepressants is experiencing unsavory side effects, feels as though the medication has not changed anything, or their depression gets worse, they should notify their healthcare provider immediately to figure out an alternative treatment plan.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

There are some simple self-care habits people with any kind of mental health condition can take to protect their well-being and increase their quality of life.

These include:

  • Eating healthily
  • Regularly exercising
  • Maintaining healthy sleep habits
  • Expressing and talking about emotions
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

Contact Us

It can be hard to recognize the symptoms of prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and it can feel even harder to know what to do next. Together at GIA Miami, we can help fathers tackle this disorder and learn how to manage depressive symptoms for the benefit of the whole family.

From CBT, to support groups, and even transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), we have all the options available to create an individualized treatment program for you.

Contact GIA Miami today to find out how we can help you on your journey to recovery.

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