Sad Dads: Why Men Get Postpartum Depression

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 Fathers with depression may have sleep problems, low energy and general sadness or may seem irritable or withdrawn from family life.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: Flickr.com/Sabrina Tang

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