Recognising ‘postpartum depression’ in fathers

While postpartum depression in mothers is a common phenomenon, and a certainly highlighted one, depression in dads is very real too. In fact, it affects somewhere between 2% - 25% of men either during their partner’s pregnancy period, or within the first year after childbirth

Here’s how fathers can recognise and avoid postpartum depression
Image source: Google

There is a high chance of this increasing if the mother is also experiencing perinatal/postpartum depression. The postpartum period is coupled with several adjustments which fathers have to adhere to, that often lead to Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPD) candidly referred to as ‘Sad Dads’.

Dr Fabian Almeida, Consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, said, “Postpartum depression can take a severe toll on the wellbeing of a family, specifically the children. If postpartum depression is not addressed on time or remains untreated, it can lead to chronic depression. Severe despair can result in other prolonged diseases, and in worst-case scenarios may cause suicidal tendencies. While women are inclined to showcase their fear or sadness inward, men display different signs of depression; they may feel frustrated or angry, are easily irritable and tend to be more anxious.”

Some of the common symptoms found in fathers going through paternal postpartum depression include:

  • Trouble forming an attachment with the baby
  • Fear, confusion, helplessness, and uncertainty about the future
  • Problems or fluctuations in marital relationships, such as a partner’s lack of intimacy
  • Feeling left out and envious over mother-child closeness
  • Low Testosterone

Depressed fathers are also susceptible to engage in forms of substance use and domestic violence.

Causes of paternal postpartum depression:

The state of marital relationship:

One factor that may particularly be important during the transition to parenthood, is the state of the marital relationship. The state of the marital relationship can be divided into two components – spousal support & relationship satisfaction, both of which, when impoverished, and can affect paternal mood outcomes, adversely.

Lack of education pertaining to parenting:

A lot of parents, regardless of their socioeconomic standing are worried as they welcome their child into the world; learning to care for an infant becomes a major challenge for parents.

Postpartum depression can have a ripple effect, triggering emotional strain for everyone close to a newborn. Therefore, it becomes imperative for fathers to be abreast with the nuances of parenting, also to learn and diagnose the causes/symptoms of it in order to avoid any suffering/ frustration from PPD at the later stage.

A significant change in hormones:

Like mothers, fathers too are likely to go through postpartum depression due to hormonal changes. Hormones like testosterone vasopressin may change in fathers once their baby arrives.

Other factor stimulating postnatal depression includes:

Fathers who are under 25 years of age are more prone to go through postnatal depression than their older counterparts, yet age isn’t the solitary risk factor for postnatal depression in men

The major risk factors include financial pressures, anxiety and a history of depression

Other factors that make postnatal depression in men more likely include, issues of the baby crying or extreme dependence; and an uncertain feeling of being unsupported by their partners

The father’s depression is associated with emotional well-being, drug abuse, social and behavioural problems. The association gets even stronger and severe, when a father experiences postnatal depression with these symptoms. often postnatal depression in dads can take a major toll on the relationships with the mother and baby

Coping with postpartum depression

Some dads never seek help and wait until the symptoms dissolve with time. Many opt to suffer alone; don’t communicate with their friends, spouse or a healthcare provider or any family member regarding the issue they are facing.

Due to which, they often struggle with this decision, possibly being irresponsible, placing themselves and the new baby in trouble. Hence, it is advisable that instead of choosing to remain silent, if you have symptoms that suggest you may have postpartum depression, seek help from your psychiatrist or counsellor, at the earliest.

It is therefore important for new parents to find ways to maintain social support and a warm, loving environment in their relationship and help each other deal with the stresses and increased demands of the birth of a child.