It’s exciting to welcome a new baby into the world, but it also brings a lot of new responsibilities for both mom and dad. Most people are familiar with postpartum depression, but fewer are aware that this condition can affect new dads too. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one in ten men suffer from symptoms of depression after the birth of a new child. Why is postpartum depression in men so under-diagnosed?
Postpartum Depression in Men: The Wonders and Responsibilities of Being a New Dad
Most well-meaning people think the burden of child care falls upon the woman, but dads are awakened by a hungry, crying baby too – and they still have to get up to go to work the next morning. More couples share child care responsibilities these days, which means dad may have a full-time job at the office and come home to work a second job in the evening.
Dads with postpartum depression may worry about being able to provide for a growing family and feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to work – and yet still be there for the child. It’s a situation that can pull a man in too many directions at once, leading to sleep problems and symptoms of depression.
How to Recognize Postpartum Depression in Men?
Men with postpartum depression may have difficulty sleeping, appear withdrawn, have disordered eating habits and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed – including sex. Some don’t want to be around the new baby initially, which can lead to feelings of guilt. This creates problems between mom and dad since mom may feel the burden of taking care of the baby is falling completely on her.
Unlike women with postpartum depression, who frequently become passive and withdrawn, some men become angry or aggressive and turn to bad habits such as drinking or smoking to deal with their underlying depression. This may also be a reaction against what some men perceive as a loss of freedom – and a sense of being overwhelmed by the demands of a new family.
What Causes Male Postpartum Depression?
Some research suggests that men have the same fluctuations in hormone levels after birth that women do, but in the case of men their testosterone levels drop and estrogen levels go up – and no one knows exactly why.
Researchers still aren’t sure if these hormonal fluctuations play the predominant role in postpartum depression in men or whether it’s more related to stress and lack of sleep. Lack of sleep elevates levels of cortisol, a stress hormone produced by a gland located above the kidneys, which can cause mood changes.
Men who have a history of depression or other mental health problems including drug and alcohol abuse are at greater risk for postpartum depression. Not surprisingly, male postpartum depression is most common among first-time dads.
Postpartum Depression in Men: There are Help and Hope
Getting men with postpartum depression to seek help can be a challenge since some men see their symptoms as a sign of weakness. It’s important that men with symptoms of depression get help from a doctor or a psychologist since they can impact the new baby – as well as the couple’s relationship. Fortunately, most men respond well to treatment once they seek help.
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