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Postpartum Depression in Men: A Guide for Friends and Family

Author -

Kimberly Jolasun

All new parents are at risk for postpartum depression. Here’s what you need to know about PPD in men and how you can support a new dad.

When we hear the term "postpartum depression," we often associate it with mothers. However, it's crucial to recognize that fathers can also experience postpartum depression (PPD) - and it looks a little different in men. This is something we rarely talk about, but it’s time to shed some light on postpartum depression in dads. There’s a lot we can do to help. Let’s get to it!

PPD in men is not rare

Postpartum depression in dads is more common than we might think. Studies show that 1 in 10 dads struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety.  And the risk seems to stay steady for the first months of fatherhood. The prevalence of depressive symptoms in fathers was 13.76% at 2 months and 13.60% at 6 months postpartum.

Men who were depressed during their partner's pregnancy were 7 times more likely to be depressed at 2 months postpartum.

What does PPD in men look like?

Symptoms of PPD include sadness, irritability, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and difficulty bonding with the baby. Changes may happen more slowly compared to a woman who is experiencing PPD. However, due to societal expectations and the stigma surrounding mental health in men, many fathers suffer in silence, making it crucial to recognize and address this issue openly.

As a friend and family member, you have a role to play. The first crucial step is to acknowledge and take seriously any changes in the father's behavior during pregnancy or after the baby arrives. If you notice a shift in his personality, it's important to encourage him to seek support from a mental health professional.

Why are men at risk too?

Several factors can contribute to the development of PPD in dads. Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, increased stress, financial pressures, relationship difficulties, and feelings of isolation or inadequacy are some of the common triggers. It's important to remember that PPD is not a sign of weakness or failure as a father but rather a complex combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

It can impact the dad - baby bond

Postpartum depression in fathers can have a significant impact on the father-child bond.   Fathers experiencing PPD may struggle to engage emotionally with their newborns, leading to difficulties in forming a strong attachment. This can have long-term consequences for the child's development and the overall family dynamic. Recognizing and addressing PPD in dads is essential for fostering healthy parent-child relationships.

How can you help a new dad who is experiencing PPD?

Support is crucial for fathers experiencing postpartum depression. Paternal PPD impacts parenting and family functioning and has short- and long-term implications for children’s health. And while it's more common for women to experience PPD shortly after birth, the condition peaks for men between 3 and 6 months. 

Create a judgment-free space to talk

New dads need to feel supported. You can encourage open communication and create a safe space for fathers to express their feelings. A lot of men feel pressure to be macho - but let’s be honest, having a newborn makes that hard! Show up for a new dad and let him talk about being a dad. Ask if he needs anything. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and every father deserves the support and care necessary to navigate the challenges of early parenthood.

If you don’t feel like you’re the one a new dad should talk too, help him out by recommending a local new dad group.

Tell him PPD is a thing - and that’s ok!

Some men probably haven’t heard of PPD, and definitely don’t know it can impact men! Ensure the father understands that prenatal and postpartum depression are common and treatable conditions. It's important for him to know that seeking help when struggling is the best thing he can do for himself and his family.

Help balance the responsibility of care

Parents should try to share childcare responsibilities to ensure both parents get sufficient sleep and bonding time with the baby. If the father is a single parent, family members can step in to provide support and help ensure he gets adequate rest.

Help out so dad can get some me-time

Partners, family members, and friends are eager to help new parents, but sometimes are misdirected. Try to help with or take over the things that usually fall on dad during this time. Some ideas for you are to:

  • Walk the dog
  • Take out the trash or bring up the bins
  • Hold the baby so the couple can take a walk
  • Bring over some food
  • Do some light cleaning at the house
  • Help with yard work
  • Hold the baby so everyone can take a nap

Encourage him to continue baby care

This one might sound obvious, but keeping dad involved with baby is what the professionals recommend. Encourage his active involvement in caring for the baby. Encourage him to participate in activities such as bathing, dressing, or feeding whenever possible.

Couple-time is still important

Make time for each other as a couple. Understand that changes in your sex life are common after having a baby, and it's important to communicate and find ways to reconnect emotionally.

Know when it’s time for professional help 

Just like with maternal postpartum depression, seeking professional help is essential for fathers experiencing PPD. Therapy, support groups, and counseling services can provide a safe and confidential environment for fathers to explore their emotions and develop coping strategies. These mental health resources are available and specifically tailored to fathers' needs.

For immediate help please call 998 or access SAMHSA’s National Helpline it is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Let's normalize PPD in men

Postpartum depression is not limited to mothers; fathers can also experience this challenging mental health condition. Let’s normalize talking about PPD in men. By breaking the silence and raising awareness about postpartum depression in dads, we can create a more supportive environment for fathers, encourage open conversations, and ensure that they receive the help they need. 

And dads, please remember that asking for help when you are struggling is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family.

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