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Sad Dads: Why Men Get Postpartum Depression

By Monica Bielanko |

Postpartum depression: it doesn't just affect women.

A lot of lip service is spent on women and postpartum depression.  Asked if she knows of any women (family, friend, celebrity) who’ve experienced the affliction, the average woman can probably list at least five women.

Off the top of my head: Heather Armstrong, Brooke Shields, Bryce Dallas Howard, a close friend, another close friend…  In fact, according to the BBC, one in seven women suffer from postpartum depression.  But according to the Fatherhood Institute, one in every ten new dads is dealing with their own case of the blues. I’m trying to think of a man who has dealt with the issue not a single man comes to mind. There is no poster boy for postpartum depression in men and that’s a problem.

Case in point, a Gloucester man was just acquitted of murdering his six-month-old daughter, after saying he had had postpartum depression. The case of Mark Bruton-Young has put the issue of men who struggle to cope with becoming fathers in the headlines.

Last year The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that about 10 percent of new fathers were depressed. The rate of depression was highest among fathers with infants 3 months to 6 months old, the study showed. Among fathers with children in that age group, one in four were depressed. That’s huge! A child with a depressed mother was also more likely to have a depressed father, the data showed. Fathers with depression may have sleep problems, low energy and general sadness or may seem irritable or withdrawn from family life.

Like women, men can struggle with the huge life changes a baby brings, says Fatherhood Institute research head Adrienne Burgess.  “Hormones, lack of sleep, increased responsibility and general life stresses can apply to men just as much to women,” she tells the BBC.

“And if their partner is depressed, then men are more likely to be too.”  And a father’s depression can begin during pregnancy, when relationships are already changing. Fathers can feel left out while their partner is the focus of increased attention.

After baby is born?  Women tend to feel like they do everything best, often pushing dad aside and taking over which can undermine a new father’s already tentative confidence and contribute to depression.

My husband’s life changed in all the very same ways that mine did after we had children. Granted he didn’t have to deal with breastfeeding, but he is right there changing poopy diapers and feeding bottles and dealing with all the same stress-causing events, day in and day out. I also think more men are staying at home while women work, yet postpartum depression is still a woman’s issue. Fatherhood needs to be acknowledged as the life-changing event that motherhood is considered to be.

What about you? Do you know any men who’ve suffered postpartum depression? Now that you’ve read this, do you think, in retrospect, your husband might’ve had a case of the blues after one of your children was born?

Image: Tang

Do pregnancy and childbirth change men’s chemistry? Find out what the research says.

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About Monica Bielanko


Monica Bielanko

Monica Bielanko was raised on the wild frontier of late 1970's Utah. She is a recovering Mormon who married the guitar player of an unknown band. She's been married to her Babble Voices writing partner, Serge Bielanko, for the past nine years. Her personal blog, The Girl Who was in the top ten of last year's Top 50 list. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Sad Dads: Why Men Get Postpartum Depression

  1. Angelica says:

    Ooh, now that you mention this, I think my guy might’ve been postpartum depressed. We had a big fight when she was about 8 weeks old, that I was completely unprepared for. Something along the lines of: “She won’t let me feed her!”, “That baby hates me!” and “I feel like you’re not putting anything into me at all!” To be fair, the poor thing lost his job shortly after she was born, was stressing about finding another, we were living an inexpensive lifestyle on savings that was supposed to go towards another car for our convenience and yes, I was consumed by my new baby and breastfeeding 24/7. So, I brushed it off, but for a few weeks, he seemed down. Really, really down. It all blew over. He quickly got hired onto a better company, we started saving again and my infant is no longer such a titty baby, so he *can* feed her! Yay!

  2. Marie says:

    My husband had terrible postpartum depression, although a lot of it was “rest of life stress” depression – he lost a close relative just before the kid was born and his job shortly after, was in a serious car accident at work, and then we had to suddenly move and I suddenly changed schools (and my mom babysat for the kid, and she’s starting to get senile, so it was extra stressful). He was moping for the first 3 months (when the kid had colic) and profoundly depressed after that until he got help about 6 weeks later. It made me sad that even though both of us went to the kid’s well-child visits, our doctor only screened me for depression, and I was managing pretty well while he was about to fly off the handle. I’m kind of scared to have another child after all of it, and he’s still medicated 3 years later, but hoping to go off the meds soon.

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