About 14% of new mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD) — and luckily, the conversation around this serious condition is finally being had.
What we speak about less often is that new parenthood can take its toll on the mental health of fathers, too — with one in ten new dads experiencing postpartum paternal depression.
First up, there is help for you, your partner, and your family.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers this resource that includes helpline numbers and an online treatment locator.
With that in mind, we’ll take you through what postpartum paternal depression is, the symptoms to watch out for, and how you can support your partner.
And before we dive in, we know that supporting someone through mental health challenges — particularly when you have a new baby — can be really tough.
Your Peanut community is here for you.
You don’t have to do this alone.
In this article: 📝
- What’s postpartum depression?
- Do fathers suffer from postnatal depression?
- How can you recognize postpartum paternal depression?
- Can postpartum depression be permanent?
- How you can support your partner
What’s postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health condition that affects new mothers and fathers.
According to the CDC, every 1 in 8 women experiences symptoms.
PPD is not the same thing as the baby blues, a more common experience that happens to as many as 80% of women after giving birth.
While we don’t know exactly what causes the baby blues, it’s likely linked to the hormonal changes that happen in a new mother’s body.
Feeling weepy, moody, irritable, and having difficulty sleeping are some of the symptoms.
PPD, on the other hand, lasts longer and requires treatment (talk therapy or medication) to assist you in feeling well again.
Do fathers suffer from postnatal depression?
The short answer is: yes, it’s totally possible.
The adjustment to parenthood is massive.
Sleepless nights, having to take care of a whole other human, and a complete overhaul of household priorities can be a real challenge for everyone involved.
Not to mention changes in relationships as the whole family dynamic shifts.
Add to this all the external pressures, like providing for a growing family, and the situation can quickly become overwhelming.
In some cases, the challenges of this adjustment period can cause serious mental health struggles for new dads.
That’s why, as this research suggests, involving fathers in the prenatal period and the educational processes that come with it is vital.
Not only will this help them navigate pregnancy and the postnatal period together with their partners, but also prepare them for the huge shifts that come with parenthood.
But these lifestyle changes and new pressures aren’t the only factors when it comes to postpartum paternal depression.
Believe it or not, new fathers experience hormonal changes as well.
There’s evidence to suggest that it’s not just new mothers that are at the mercy of these internal shifts.
Depressive symptoms are linked to a decrease in testosterone in men.
(It’s complex, though — the same study suggests that higher levels of testosterone in male partners may be linked to depressive symptoms in mothers.
Regardless, these chemical messengers seem to play a real part in the postpartum experience.)
The bottom line?
There is a lot at play here.
And mental health challenges are not uncommon as a result.
If you have noticed that your partner is struggling with moods or is detached, they could be going through PPD.
This, of course, presents a unique challenge for new mothers.
Not only are you dealing with the adjustment period of becoming a parent yourself, but also with the challenges of a partner who is struggling with the transition.
That’s why it’s incredibly important that you seek support.
This could be from friends or family initially so that you don’t feel alone in this.
But it’s also vital that you speak to a professional who is trained to help.
How can you recognize postpartum paternal depression?
PPD can have an effect on the health of the new baby and on the relationships within a family.
That’s why experts are now advising that both mothers and fathers be screened for PPD so that, if necessary, they can get the help they need.
It’s important to note that depression can look different in men and women at all stages of life.
While women may experience deep sadness, for example, men are more likely to experience anger, feeling antagonized, inadequate, and ultimately detached.
The stats also suggest that although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are significantly more likely to follow it through.
And we’re not saying this to scare you.
We know you have a lot on your plate right now.
But understanding these key differences can help you pick up the warning signs so that you can get the help you need for your family.
The symptoms of paternal depression include:
- Anger or aggression
- Irritability and frustration
- Sadness, guilt, and hopelessness
- A cynical attitude
- Acting distant and disconnected
- Lack of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed
According to this study, you are more at risk of getting paternal depression if:
- You have a history of depression or anxiety.
- You have financial struggles.
- Your relationship feels compromised.
- You experience hormonal changes.
Can postpartum depression be permanent?
Because each experience of depression is so unique, it’s difficult to give a one-size-fits-all answer here about how long paternal depression may last.
(In this study on PPD in women, 5% of the participants were still experiencing severe symptoms three years after giving birth — but it’s hard to apply this directly to paternal depression.)
The good news is, as debilitating as depression can be, there is treatment available in the form of talk therapy and medications.
Many people benefit from a combination of the two.
Other alternative therapies such as herbal remedies and acupuncture are being researched, some with promising results.
Lifestyle changes can also have a really positive effect.
Things that have been proven to help?
- Regular physical activity
- A nutritious balanced diet
- Enough sleep (we know — tricky in the postpartum period)
- Mindfulness techniques, like meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga
- Reducing (or eliminating) nicotine, alcohol, stimulants, and other drugs
How you can support your partner
Let them know you are there for them.
The first step is to tell them that you can see that they’re struggling and that you want to be there for them.
This can be a bold first step to make.
Tell them that depression is a medical condition and it’s not their fault that they’re feeling how they’re feeling.
Explain that there is treatment available.
Seek professional help.
There are a few different avenues you can take — helplines, your local clinic or GP, or a counselor.
Of course, it can be difficult to get someone else to decide to seek support.
The fact that we live in a society where men are far less likely to seek help for mental health issues can also be a real obstacle.
If your partner is reluctant to seek treatment, it can help to talk to your healthcare provider yourself.
They will be able to suggest strategies to get your partner the help they need safely while protecting your own well-being too.
Whatever you do, don’t try and push this experience under the rug.
By stepping up, you are empowering not only your partner, but yourself and your baby.
Put your own life jacket on first.
You have a lot to deal with right now.
The last thing you need is to burn out.
Remember that your needs matter too.
Seek support from your community.
It’s not your responsibility to “fix” things yourself.
Promote self-care for both of you.
That means prioritizing sleep where possible, eating well, exercising, and doing things you enjoy (both alone and together).
We know this can be a really tall order when you have a new baby in the house.
But know that you’ll both be able to show up better for your little one if you feel healthy and strong.
And if you need support through this, know that your Peanut community is here for you.