Reviewed by Laura Angers, LPC
Paternal postpartum depression (PPND) is a potentially serious condition in which a parent experiences symptoms of depression after the birth of a child. Adverse effects could include long-term consequences for parents, children, and a family as a whole. This condition is most often thought about in the context of mothers, which begs the question: can men have postpartum depression?
The answer is, unequivocally, yes. Men can have postpartum depression that is just as serious as maternal postpartum depression. After a baby is born, men also experience brain and hormonal changes, not just women. This article will focus on male postpartum depression.
Although male postpartum depression is a very serious condition, it is also very treatable. Proper education and understanding of the condition is essential to a smart recovery. This article is going to outline everything you need to know about male postpartum depression, including symptoms, underlying causes, and ways to manage the condition.
What is Male Postpartum Depression?
So, what is PPND? Male postpartum depression is a relatively common condition. Although there is no universally accepted diagnosis, different studies have cited up to 1 in 4 new dads developing male postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is most prevalent during the first 3 to 6 months after having a child, where symptoms related to depression and anxiety show themselves. Additionally, it is not uncommon for symptoms to develop closer to a year after birth.
Once developing postpartum depression, men often restrict their emotions and may become irritable, along with depression and anxiety-related symptoms. The condition could be related to other anxiety disorders. At its worst, male postpartum depression could negatively affect the father, mother, child, and entire family dynamics in the long term.
Male postpartum depression is, unsurprisingly, very much related to female postpartum depression. Academic studies have shown that if a mother is experiencing postpartum depression, then the father is about twice as likely to develop male postpartum depression. In fact, the strongest predictor of male postpartum depression was found to be female postpartum depression from the man’s partner. This is not surprising, since mothers and fathers are intertwined, both emotionally and hormonally, to this baby’s birth.
What are the Symptoms of Male Postpartum Depression?
Like mentioned earlier, there is no universally accepted diagnosis of male postpartum depression. However, experts have found certain trends that tend to show themselves in men experiencing postpartum depression. One of the best ways of diagnosing and understanding male postpartum depression is a clinical interview that utilizes DSM-5 criteria, which is essentially a manual for assessment and diagnosis of mental disorders. Remember that an official diagnosis can only ever come from a licensed mental health professional.
In broad strokes, male postpartum depression symptoms mirror those of female postpartum depression. Things like anger, irritability, sadness, and frustration are common. Some other symptoms seem to be more common in men than women, such as indecisiveness and emotional blunting.
Women experiencing female postpartum depression generally turn their depression/sadness inwards, while men may express their fear and anger outwardly. Men sometimes get more aggressive, irritable, and anxious when experiencing male postpartum depression.
The symptoms of male postpartum depression can also manifest themselves in actions. Men experiencing this disorder are often susceptible to increased use of alcohol, drugs, gambling, or other addictive behaviors such as video games. Other physical symptoms could include headaches and stomachaches.
The relationship between postpartum depression in men and alcoholism is important to note. Sufferers may feel as though they are experiencing an existential crisis, and could turn to alcohol to cope. If you or somebody you know is experiencing symptoms like these, please don’t be afraid to reach out to organizations such as alcoholics anonymous. AA meetings can be a great place to learn about addictions and overcome alcoholism.
There are certainly other symptoms that can be identified as having a root cause of male postpartum depression, including:
- Gaining or losing significant amounts of weight
- Isolating oneself from family and friends
- Stressing easily
- Impulsive / risky behavior
- Feelings of discouragement or cynicism
- Issues maintaining concentration or focus
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex
- Constantly working
- Conflict between how you feel you should be as a man and how you are, representing a tension between thoughts and actions
Additionally, male postpartum depression is linked with other mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and others. If you think you may be at risk for one of these preexisting conditions, consider taking a depression test, or this short test to see if you or a loved one may be experiencing postpartum depression. Short tests like these can be very effective to give further insight into mental disorders, but please consult a licensed medical professional for official diagnoses of mental disorders.
What are the Underlying Factors of Male Postpartum Depression?
Male Postpartum Depression is not incredibly well studied, but certain studies do exist that have indicated underlying risk factors that may play a role in the development of male postpartum depression.
In addition to the risk factors of preexisting mental disorders discussed earlier, things like martial issues, financial issues or poverty, unintended pregnancy, and sleep schedule issues (sleep deprivation) have all been found to be positively correlated with postpartum depression. These issues are risk factors for women as well as men. And since female postpartum depression is the most important predictor of male postpartum depression, these risk factors are twofold for men.
The biological background for male postpartum depression is not completely known at this point. Some recent studies have found a correlation between male postpartum depression and lower testosterone levels. Basically, male testosterone levels sometimes drop after the birth of a child, and this is often accompanied by the symptoms of male postpartum depression. It is currently unknown why testosterone levels dip following the birth of a child.
There are a variety of other risk factors that could potentially contribute to the development of male postpartum depression. Of course, if you find yourself with some of these risk factors, it doesn’t mean for sure that you will develop male postpartum depression. Instead, it just means you should be mindful and keep an eye out for your mental health.
Additional Risk Factors:
- Sleep deprivation - throwing off sleep cycles can contribute to a variety of mental health disorders, so getting regular, quality sleep is essential for mental health
- Hormonal changes - could be from a variety of different reasons
- Issues with spouse - stress from a marital (or nonmarital) relationship can increase the risk of developing male postpartum depression
- Relationship issues with your own parents - issues that could harm identity issues when having a child, especially for the first time
- Excessive stress about becoming a father
- Nonstandard family - things like a nonmarital relationship or one involving a stepfather
- A lack of a solid support system
- Financial problems or lack of resources
- A sense of exclusion between the father and the mother/child
How to Manage Male Postpartum Depression
Although male postpartum depression is a very serious condition that can have long term effects, it is encouraging to know that this disorder is completely treatable. With the right information and a good support network, a smart recovery is easily within reach.
Management of male postpartum depression can be attained in a variety of ways. One of the most effective is different types of therapy. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT), has been shown to be quite effective in helping alleviate the symptoms of male postpartum depression. Please speak with a licensed medical professional for all advice relating to psychotherapy. These treatments tend to be very helpful because they allow an individual to understand their condition and make smart choices about how to recover.
There are other emotional and support techniques that can be extremely productive in helping victims deal with male postpartum depression. For example, simply talking with a spouse can be very helpful. Acknowledging feelings and the emotions of having a child is a critical first step in recovery. Understanding the different roles and stressors that both a mother and father have to deal with is important.
Other, more large-scale solutions have been suggested. Things like educational programs for both parents are valuable. Support from employers in the form of paid paternity leave or something similar can help a lot. New fathers are under incredible amounts of stress, so any outside support is very useful.
Conclusion: Male Postpartum Depression Doesn’t Have to Take Over
In conclusion, male postpartum depression is a legitimate condition that must be taken seriously. Having a child is one of the most influential and stressful events of our lives. We need to be sensitive and aware of the responsibilities and stressors that are put on new mothers and fathers. However, with proper education and a commitment to supporting each other, new parents can overcome postpartum depression and be better parents because of it.
Taking away important lessons from having a child is critical for parents. Learn what stresses you out, what makes you feel certain ways, and learn to express those emotions to your partner. You will be stronger together, and can provide the best possible life for a new child. Finally, please remember to consult licensed medical professionals for advice regarding treatment and diagnosis of postpartum depression. If you speak openly with others and are willing to share your emotions, postpartum depression won’t take over your life.Top of Form