A time meant for joy and celebration can lead to depression for some men. (Pexels/Mike Greer)

Can Men Get Post Partum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a complex response to the changes that parents undergo before, during, immediately after the birth of their child. Postpartum depression results in emotional, social, physical, and psychological changes in parents. Once thought to exclusively affect mothers, research shows that fathers can be affected too.

Nearly 1 in 10 fathers experiences postpartum depression, but as is the case with male mental health issues, it often goes unreported. Due to the stigma surrounding reaching out for assistance regarding mental health issues as well as the lack of information, many assume men don't suffer from postpartum depression.

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What Causes Postpartum Depression In Men?

While it is now common knowledge that hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy coupled with the emotional and physical toll of giving birth is the reason for postpartum depression in women, the causes for it in men are not that straightforward.

The causes of postpartum depression in men can differ between individuals and some factors can combine with each to the disorder.

Physical Changes

While men do not experience the same physical changes that a woman who gives birth does, they do experience hormonal changes before and after the child is born. They see a drop in the level of testosterone that the body produces while the serotinin pathways are affected.

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Partner's Influence

Postpartum depression is very common among women, and partners of women who have this depression are more likely to go through it themselves.

Alienation

Men are expected to be a part of the child-rearing experience along with the mother of the child; however, they feel left out when compared to the bonding between the mother and the baby.

Men may not get to spend as much time with the baby, which could cause further emotional anguish. Men who are first-time parents may struggle to bond with their baby, which can lead to depression.

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History of Mental Illness

Men who have a history of depression and other mental health illnesses or have a family history of depression are more likely to face postpartum depression.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is vital to the functioning of any adult and those with poor sleeping habits are susceptible to mental health problems. Newborns are in need of round-the-clock care and express discomfort by crying at odd hours, which might disrupt sleep for men and compound the depression for those who have poor sleeping cycles.

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Guilt

Fathers are subject to societal pressure to feel and act a certain way during the birth of their child. They are expected to demonstrate being strong, calm, and in control during childbirth. They are not expected to show feelings of vulnerability. Further, even the joy of holding their baby should be projected in a subdued way. Men who cannot subscribe to such behaviors end up in depression. Fathers can slip into depression if they feel that they aren't meeting society's standards.

Provider Pressure

Fathers are tasked with being the breadwinner and provide financial security to the new family. This creates a lot of mental strain and feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness can lead to depression if the father does not believe he can support the family.

Emotional Support

The father of the child may face postpartum depression if he feels neglected by the mother who had earlier given all her attention to him. When the mother starts to focus on the child, the father can feel left out of the scenario and feel like a third wheel.

Male Postpartum Depression and the Child

Postpartum depression is not only a serious medical and mental health illness that affects the father, but by association it can affect the entire family, including the newborn baby. As a result of the condition, the father may not be in the postion to provide the best support for the child in one of the most vital periods of development.

Postpatum depression affects the father and it can also affect the baby. (Pexels/Pixabay)
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Depressed fathers have been shown to be less attentive to their newborn child's needs and pay less attention to the health and welfare of the baby. They have been shown to ignore monitoring and keeping up with the baby's health and care requirements.

As a result, a child born to a depressed parent has more physical and mental health problems. These children are also more likely to exhibit behavioral problems as compared to their peers.

The family needs all the support it can get during the period before and after a child's birth, which a man suffering from postpartum depression is not capable of providing. This creates a huge strain on marital and family relationships.

Signs and Treatment

Depression in men does not have the same symptoms as in women, making it harder to diagnose. Despite this, signs of depression can occur as early as 3 months into the pregnancy and as late as 6 months after the birth of the child.

Common signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in men include

  • Sudden outbursts of violence and anger
  • Impulsive and reckless behavior
  • Loss of motivation
  • Increased irratibility
  • Withdrawing from social relationships
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Digestion problems
  • Headaches
  • Body pain
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Here are a few things that men can do to reduce the severity of post-partum depression:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Dedicating time and effort into getting adequate sleep and rest
  • Visiting a therapist on a regular basis

Postpartum depression is a very real and serious issue, but it does not have to debilitate a man's life. If the symptoms are identified at an early stage and treatment is pursued as soon as possible, men can recover from the condition and be there for the mother and the child.

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Edited by
Ramaa Kishore
 
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