” Dad is and always will be my living breathing superhero.” – Bindi Irwin
Although an emphasis on maternal mental health has been more prevalent in recent years, medical communities often overlook the psychological needs of fathers. It is reported that 1 in 4 new dads experience what is termed Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND). One study by the American Medical Association reported that 10 percent of new dads develop this condition (2007). And, if the new father’s partner also has perinatal/postpartum depression, of those fathers, 50% will develop PPND.
One study (2014) reported that depression can increase in new fathers by 68% in the first five years of a baby’s life. Furthermore, there is an uptick in incidence of depression in dads specifically during the 3-6 month mark in infant development (Courtenay, 2011). Dads need and deserve support as much as their partners, and they are often overlooked due to stigma and toxic masculinity. This is not new information, but yet men’s mental health is often brushed aside to the “suck it up and deal” mentality. We need to do better by the men in our lives.
Signs and Symptoms of PPND:
*Distancing from baby or partner/Avoidance behaviors
*Escaping into work or alcohol/drugs/gambling
*Depressed mood, possible suicidal thoughts
*Feeling lack of motivation and interest in formerly pleasurable activities
*Insomnia, extreme fatigue
*Feeling worthless, dip in self esteem
*Extreme Guilt and Hopelessness
*Partner has Perinatal Depression or Anxiety
Causes: We aren’t exactly sure what causes PPND but most studies point to a complex interplay between abrupt life role change, increased responsibilities and pressure (financial and child rearing), prior history/genetic history of depression/anxiety, trauma/loss history also relating to one’s own caregivers, gender role stereotypes, diminished sleep as a result of night-time awakening of infant, special needs baby (colicky, etc), partner with PMAD, all are potential contributing factors in the development of PPND. Recent studies also indicate that men’s hormones also fluctuate with the birth of a new baby as oxytocin and prolactin increase as bonding chemicals, and testosterone, cortisol, vasopressin and estrogen decreases. These shifts in hormones may impact serotonin and other neurotransmitters that regulate mood health (see below for specific articles).
Treatment for PPND: Just like with perinatal depression/anxiety (PMADs) in new moms, PPND is treatable, and with help, new dads can recover swiftly from PPND. Psychotherapy utilizing interpersonal interventions addressing role change and prior trauma/loss can be very helpful. As well, mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy can address acute symptoms of depression and anxiety. See Postpartum Support International (resource listed below) for providers trained in these modalities all over the world. Sometimes new fathers may opt to pursue medication management for moderate-severe symptomatology or perhaps work with a naturopath to help regulate sleep cycles with melatonin and other supplements, including omega-3 fish oil (see below websites regarding these resources). New dads also need social supports in the form of helpful friends and family who can offer to provide tangible support (dropping off a meal or caregiving for the baby so new parents can sleep), as well as psychological support in the form of individual and/or group therapy. Couples therapy may be helpful if one or both partners are struggling with role change, caregiving, and communication, as well as mood health.
As Postpartum Support International says, with help you will be well. PPND is temporary and treatable. Get the help you need by reaching out and seeing a qualified, compassionate and competent mental health provider. You deserve it.
Postpartum Support International: www.postpartum.net
Retrieved from: http://www.uppitysciencechick.com/can_fats_make_you_happy.pdf
Retrieved from: https://www.postpartum.net/psi-blog/dads-mental-health/
Retrieved from: June 18, 2019 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922346/
Retrieved from: June 18, 2019 https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/ppnd#causes
Courtenay, Will (2011). Dying to be Men: Psychosocial, Environmental, and Biobehavioral Directions in Promoting the Health of Men and Boys (The Routledge Series on Counseling and Psychotherapy with Boys and Men), Routledge.