The other day my husband and I were snuggled up on the couch and it occurred to me that maybe dads go through their own postpartum symptoms and maybe even get postpartum depression and anxiety.
To tell you the truth, it actually surprised me that that thought had never crossed my mind before… it seems like a pretty obvious one now that I’ve had it.
So I asked my husband what he thought. His answer was “Well, not like you do. My hormones don’t go through all of that (or maybe they do? Continue to read what I found…) and I didn’t give birth, but becoming a dad has a been a huge change for me, too.”
In a day in age where we talk a lot about women’s emancipation and women gaining a voice, I cannot help but notice that there are a lot of areas where men are also lacking a voice. Fatherhood –especially the emotional side of it– is one of them.
It’s almost that as women are reclaiming the power of their feminine and finding new ways to authentically and fully express themselves, men should (and need!!!) to go through this reclamation of their feminine as well.
As my husband and I were talking about this, I felt a massive urgency wash over me to talk about this particular topic: the dads’ postpartum experiences. Perhaps it is because I grew up with brothers, have an amazing dad, and am raising two sons that I feel strongly that as we are claiming more power as women and as we are fighting to be SEEN, we also need to support men in claiming a new kind of power and being seen more fully as well.
“Feminine” and “masculine” aren’t characteristics tied to any specific gender, rather they are qualities that appear in every person and are an essential piece in becoming whole.
I, for one, for sure want a husband who feels whole (so he can take my whole being, ya know;))
Today, I want to share with you a few interesting things I discovered about postpartum depression and/or anxiety in men, including how common they are, what symptoms to look out for, and what we can do in our families to support not just the mamas, but also the papas.
How common is Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) or Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPPD)
Unfortunately the research available on Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND) is still very limited. However, there are studies that show that 1 in 10 dads (some studies even suggest up to 1 in 4 new dads) have PPND. (1) (4)
What is fascinating is that while hormones are thought of to be a major factor in mother’s postpartum, a study found that men with PPND may also be experiencing some hormonal dips.
A 2017 study found an association between lower testosterone levels and PPND. According to the study, “Following the birth of an infant, decreases in testosterone and increases in depressive symptoms have been observed in fathers.” Why testosterone dips isn’t yet understood. (5)
One thing we DO know is that if the man’s partner is depressed, there’s a good chance that he is, too. Up to half of men whose partners have postpartum depression are depressed themselves. (3)
This is huge, because if that is the case, postpartum depression when discovered in the mom (which is more commonly screened for and certainly more sociably acceptable) should also be screened for in the dad. It means that PPD is very often a family issue and by addressing and correctly treating everyone affected, the family can return to a place of health more easily.
It really means that dads really cannot be left out of the postpartum conversation.
What are typical symptoms of PPND?
When I was getting my MA in Counseling Psychology, I remember one of my professors saying “most often girls act in, while boys act out.” This has stuck with me.
Turns out this is true for postpartum symptoms as well: While women tend to act inward, men tend to act outward. Women channel their sadness, fear, and anxiety internally, while men are more likely to express depression through anger, aggressiveness, irritability and anxiety, says a San Diego-based psychologist David Singley PhD. “They are also susceptible to other manifestations such as increased use of substances (drinking, drugs), addictive behaviors such as gambling or video games as well as physical manifestations like headaches and stomach problems.”
Other common symptoms include:
Increased anger and conflict with others
Increased use of alcohol or prescription/street drugs
Frustration or irritability, violent behavior
Significant weight gain or loss
Isolation from family and friends
Being easily stressed
Impulsiveness or risk-taking (this kind of behavior can include reckless driving or extramarital affairs)
Feeling discouraged; cynicism
Increase in complaints about physical problems, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
Problems with concentration or motivation
Loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex
Concerns about productivity and functioning at work or school
Feeling sad or crying for no reason
Conflict between how you feel you should be as a man and how you are
Thoughts of suicide or death
What are risk factors to develop PPND?
Research on this is still limited, but this is what studies show so far:
A lack of good sleep
Changes in hormones
Personal history of depression
Poor relationship with spouse
Poor relationship with one or both parents
Relationship stress – with a partner or with in-laws
Excessive stress about becoming a parent or father
Nonstandard family (such as being unmarried or a stepfather)
Poor social functioning
A lack of support from others
Economic problems or limited resources
A sense of being excluded from the connection between the mother and baby
What can your family do to support the dads?
Get professional help! Postpartum symptoms in men is something that needs to be studied a lot more in depth, but getting support from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist is key.
There are also support groups available.
There are no studies specifically supporting this as of now, but as a hormonal heath coach to women, I know how much our nutrition and lifestyle impacts our hormonal health. Making sure that you are getting top quality nutrition and supplements, balancing blood-sugar, getting regular exercise, good sleep and support so dad has time for himself NEVER hurts.
You can also learn more here:
Mamas, let’s take this as serious as our own journeys. Men aren’t as likely to get help as we do, but their health -physical, mental, emotional- is as key to our family’s whole health as ours. Your family can only be as healthy as the least healthy person.
(1) Lane A., Keville R., Morris, M., Kinsella, A., Turner, M., & Barry, S. (1997). Postnatal depression and elation among mothers and their partners: prevalence and predictors.British Journal of Psychiatry. 171: 550-555.
(2) Cox, J. L., Holden, J. M., & Sagovsky, R. (1987). Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-item Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. British Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 782-786.
(3) Goodman, J.H. (2004). Paternal postpartum depression, its relationship to maternal postpartum depression, and implications for family health. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 45: 26-35.