Did you know that 1 in 10 dads suffer from Paternal Postpartum Depression ?
That number doubles after the baby is delivered.
Why is male depression such a taboo topic?
It is seen as shameful and somehow not manly.
You know what is extremely manly?
Dealing with your mental health so that you can be the best damn dad you can be to your kids.
Up to 26% of males suffer from postpartum depression during the first six months after birth.
Up to 68% of dads suffer from depression within the first five years of their child’s life.
Those numbers are scary high, way too high for them to be ignored.
Causes of Male Postpartum Depression
Changes in Hormone Levels
We know that mothers go through a huge hormonal shift during pregnancy and after delivery. What most people don’t know is that dads also go through a hormonal shift during these exciting times as well.
It is most likely the drop in testosterone, and the rising levels of estrogen, prolactin and cortisol that cause a shift in our males moods. Some have even noticed other symptoms of hormonal changes such as weight gain and nausea.
Mix the fluctuating hormones in a mans body with the severe lack of sleep new parents experience and that is a recipe for disaster. It is reported that the lack of sleep hits its peak of toughness on the dad bod anywhere between 3 and 6 months after birth.
Change in Lifestyle
Many men feel pushed out of the picture as mom is bonding with the new bundle. This is especially seen in moms that breastfeed. Dads feel, for lack of a better term, “somewhat useless” since they aren’t the giver of milk.
Financial stress, relationship tension, lack of family support or friends also can contribute to dad developing paternal postpartum depression.
Signs of Paternal Postpartum Depression
According to Pacific Postpartum, men and women experience postpartum depression very differently.
Some signs to watch out for in the new and expecting father are:
- Personal history of depression
- Family history of depression
- Worries about being a parent
- Feeling overwhelmed with expectations in your role at work and your role as a father
- Financial problems
- Lack of social and/or emotional support
- Stress in relationship with family or spouse
- Missing attention and/or sex from your partner
- Stressful birthing experience
- Lack of sleep after the baby is born
- Feeling excluded from the bond between mom and baby
- Being a new immigrant to Canada
Other symptoms that are commonly experienced by men who have PPPD are:
- Increased anger and conflict with others
- Increased use of alcohol or prescription/street drugs
- Frustration or irritability
- Violent behaviour
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Isolation from family and friends
- Being easily stressed
- Impulsiveness or risk taking (this kind of behaviour can include reckless driving or extramarital affairs)
- Feeling discouraged; cynicism
- Increase in complaints about physical problems, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
- Problems with concentration or motivation
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex
- Working constantly
- Concerns about productivity and functioning at work or school
- Feeling sad or crying for no reason
- Conflict between how you feel you should be as a man and how you are
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Treatment for Parental Postpartum Depression
Vitamin B is a proven mood and energy booster. Low levels of vitamin B12 have been linked back to depression. Check with your doctor to find out if you have a vitamin deficiency, and try popping a B before pouring that extra cup of coffee.
Though there is no real proven fact to this, it is thought that countries that consume a lot of fish have lower depression rates. Omega 3’s are being studied currently as a great depression treatment.
Include dad in baby skin-to-skin time. This is a great way for dad to build that bond with baby, especially if he is feeling left out while mom breastfeeds. The benefits of skin-to-skin are endless, they include regulating breathing, stabilizing blood sugars in the body, and reducing feelings of stress.
Go for a Walk
Outside. Not only is the fresh air great for your body, mind and soul. Along with the feel good endorphins the body releases while exercising, the vitamin D that your body soaks up while out there will help brighten that mood. Be sure to take a vitamin D supplement if it is winter or walking outdoors is a no go for you. Encourage dad to baby wear on walks, as well as indoors. This is another great way for dad to bond with baby.
New parents are tired. EXHAUSTED. Try encouraging dad to squeeze in a nap here or there, or suggest going to bed half an hour earlier. It really is amazing how much better you feel after a chunk of sleep.
Talk therapy is said to be one of the best treatments for parental postpartum depression. Whether this is just with your family doctor, a private counsellor, or a group just for dads. It is a great way for them to feel heard, and know that they are not alone in the way that they are feeling. This can be a great starting point for those who would like to try to avoid any medications
There are a number of anti-depressants that can be used for dads that are experiencing particularly bad parental Postpartum Depression. It is best to speak to your healthcare provider to set out a treatment plan. Just remember, what you are feeling is totally normal, and just because you may need medical intervention does not make you weak.
If You or Someone You Know has Paternal Postpartum Depression
I am totally sick of the whole stigma around male depression. It is not shameful, it is not embarrassing. IT IS LIFE
IT NEEDS TO BE TALKED ABOUT. period.
Just to name a few of the fabulous men that struggled with depression and it ultimately cost them their lives. Sure, they weren’t struggling with postpartum depression, but depression is depression. It doesn’t matter how or why or where you got it. What matters is how you deal with it.
Depression is a fully treatable condition, and it takes a lot of guts to admit that you need help.
If you think you are suffering from PPPD I encourage you to reach out and seek help.
If you think that your spouse or loved one is suffering from PPPD, it may be time to sit down and have a conversation with them. Remember, it could save their life.
If you are looking for extra support, check out these great online resources