Leading up to the birth of a child, the majority of the attention is focused on mom because–let’s face it–she is doing the hard work. After birth, Mom also tends to shoulder much of the responsibility for the newborn, especially if she is breast-feeding.
Even the most well-adjusted, connected, and caring fathers are likely not going to get as much attention as mom and baby, and that includes when it comes to the adjustment period of having a newborn. While there are many programs and screenings for post-partum depression in mothers, not much attention has been paid to Dad’s well-being.
A recent study conducted in Australia had some startling findings: new fathers are just as likely to suffer from the “baby blues” as new mothers. Chief researcher Jan Nicholson, Ph.D. defined the “baby blues” as a condition which includes symptoms of anxiety, worry, stress, feeling unable to cope, feeling blue and despairing that things won’t get better.
The study results revealed that new dads have a 40% higher rate of these symptoms than men of similar age and background. The study’s authors are saying that it is time to stop thinking the “baby blues” only happen to mothers, and start paying attention to the mental health of both parents.
When you add in the fact that men are less likely to seek professional help for depression, this makes an already difficult situation more challenging. What can you do if you suspect a new dad has the “baby blues”?
- Read this story by dad Craig Mullins about his experience with paternal post-partum depression. A real-world story can help you get some perspective, and may be something to show your loved one to see if he connects with what Mullins discusses in the story.
- Check out this site specifically for men experiencing paternal post-partum depression, Postpartummen. This site speaks specifically to the male experience of being a new dad, and has an assessment quiz, an online forum, and links to resources and articles.
- Enlist others to help. This article on About.com is aimed at educating grandparents of the new baby about paternal post-partum depression, but it is also accessible to anyone who needs more information. Caring for a newborn is hard; allowing others to help so that both mom and dad can get a break, as well as much-needed support, is essential.
- Reach out for professional help. While support groups and therapists specializing in paternal post-partum depression are not nearly as widespread as for maternal issues, there is still help available. A good place to start looking for a referral is on the Postpartum Support International site. This site lists state coordinators who can direct you towards a trained clinician. You can also search for a therapist here.