Dads Get Postnatal Depression Too
We know that 1 in 5 Moms can have feelings of sadness or depression after the birth of their baby, and that two thirds of Moms feel emotionally fragile or numb within the first 10 days after giving birth. But Moms aren’t the only ones who can experience a shift in their mental health after the birth of a child. National Institutes of Health research suggests that anywhere between 4 and 25 percent of Dads experience depression after the birth of their baby. If you are feeling distanced from your partner or child, anger or irritability, shortness of breath or anxiety, you may have Parental Postnatal Depression (PPND).
What causes PPND?
Just like Postpartum Depression in women, PPND is linked to a variety of factors including:
- Tiredness and exhaustion
- Hormonal changes: increase in estrogen and dip in testosterone
- Lack of support from family or friends
- Lack of contact with other adults
- Missing your old lifestyle
- Personal history of depression or anxiety
- Relationship stress with family
- Changes to your relationship with your partner
- Your partner is experiencing PPD
Signs of PPND
It’s normal for Dads to have a case of the Baby Blues immediately following the birth of their child. But if these symptoms last for more than 3 weeks, it’s likely PPND and time to seek support:
- Feeling irritable or angry
- Shortness of breath or heart palpitations
- Panic attacks
- Lost interest in activities that give you joy
- Engaging in risky behavior
- Feeling distanced from partner and baby
- Support for you and your partner
Many Fathers are hesitant to speak up about their postnatal mental health—whether it’s because they are expected to be “tough and stoic” or they are being careful not to overshadow their partner’s own PPD. But sharing your feelings with a medical professional, your partner, or close friend is the first step in seeking support and getting help.
Talk about how you feel
Talk therapy, combined with other forms of treatment, are successful in treating depression, especially if they are implemented early on. In addition to seeking help from a medical professional, consider expanding your social support network by joining a parenting group, including those offered at Parenting Now! Simply being able to swap stories and celebrate baby milestones with another parent can go a long way in supporting your emotional health.
As much as possible, keep the lines of communication open with your partner. The day gets away from you when you are caring for a baby. Find time to check in with one another throughout the day. If you are not the primary caretaker of your baby, feelings of being left out or “missing something” are common. You may find yourself deferring to your partner, or not feeling competent. It helps to talk about it and come up with solutions together. You are a team learning to care for your baby together.
Make time for yourself
Life changes after having a baby. If you spent every weekend sleeping in until 10 am, don’t expect that to be the norm after baby arrives. Settling into a new routine with baby takes time. But communication with your partner can help the two of you adjust and still get what you need. For example, make a schedule of days where each of you gets to sleep in while the other cares for baby. Same goes for taking time for yourself to enjoy the activities you enjoyed doing before you had children. You may not get to go fishing every weekend, but you can still pencil in one or two days a month to go, so long as your partner is getting time they need to themselves as well.
Take care of your health
Our children need us healthy and even if you feel like there’s no time in the day to eat nourishing foods, exercise, or even shower, it’s still important to try and maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting out of the house, exercising, and eating well.
- If possible, rest when baby rests.
- If you are working outside the home, check with your employer about adjusting your schedule so you can get more of what you need to be healthy and present at your job.
- Babies generally enjoy being outside. Take your baby for a walk in a baby carrier or stroller.
As you enter fatherhood, it’s OK to ask for help and to accept it. If family or friends are willing to help you in any way through this transition, let them! If a family member asks, “How can I help?,” you could suggest they start a meal train for your family or bring you dinner one night; ask for a quick trip to the store for diapers; be even as bold as to ask for your floors to be swept or toilet cleaned. While these things are not as glamorous as holding a sweet newborn, these are the things new parents need help with. Part of becoming a new parent is accepting when you need help and gaining the confidence to ask for it.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).