Most people automatically think of women when it comes to postpartum depression, but men can also suffer from this condition.
Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) is common among men after the birth of a child and can occur anytime during the first year of a child’s life. Up to 1 in 4 new dads have PPND.
According to recent research published in the medical journal Pediatrics, depressed fathers, when compared to fathers who aren’t depressed, are:
- Three times as likely to spank their 1-year-old children
- Far less likely to spend time reading to their children
- More likely to be unemployed
- More likely to report substance abuse
Below are some of the factors that have been identified as potentially increasing a man’s chances of having PPND:
- Lack of good sleep
- Changes in hormones
- Personal history of depression
- Poor relationship with spouse
- Excessive stress about becoming a father
- A lack of support from others
- Economic problems or limited resources
One of the most significant research findings was that the strongest predictor of paternal postpartum depression, by far, is having a depressed partner. One study found that fathers whose partners were also depressed were two and a half times more likely to experience depression.
Signs to look for
When working with new parents, here are some important signs to look for to try and identify fathers who may be experiencing postpartum depression:
- Sleep problems
- Low energy
- Loss of appetite
- General sadness
- Uncharacteristically irritable
- Being withdrawn from family life
- Feelings of worthlessness or suicidal thoughts
- Loss of interest in activities that used to bring them joy, including sex
- Engaging in risky behaviors such as abusing alcohol or drugs, gambling, or extramarital affairs
- Personality changes
- Spending more time than usual at work
You can refer also refer them to this assessment to help them determine whether they have PPND. Being knowledgeable about these signs enables you to identify those in need and work to get them help.
How to treat PPND
If any of the fathers in the families you work with is suffering from PPND, present the following treatment strategies:
Open communication. Encourage dads to openly share and discuss their feelings with their spouse or significant other. This helps men acknowledge the issue, make the decision to work through it, and seek reassurance that they’re not alone. It also allows couples to work together, providing dads with the spousal support they need when coping with postpartum depression.
Practice self-care. Stress the importance of dads (and moms!) to make time to take care of themselves. Work together to come up with a realistic plan that will get them to incorporate stress-reducing practices into their schedules, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and meditation.
Counseling and/or medication. Depending on the severity of the depression and the individual’s unique life circumstances, professional help may be necessary. This can include counseling on its own or in conjunction with prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
Being aware of the emotional effect of new parenthood on both parents, not just mothers, will help you better serve your expectant parents and new parents and guide them in the right direction.