Postpartum Depression in Men | Highland Springs
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Posted on: March 31, 2021 | Dr. Todd Thatcher

When you think of postpartum depression (PPD), you likely think of women. Affecting approximately 1 out of 10 women, with some estimates as high as 1 out of 5, this form of non-psychotic depression is both common and serious — but women are not the only ones who develop symptoms of PPD.

Defined as an episode of major depressive disorder occurring soon after the birth of a child, there is currently no established criteria for PPD in men. However, there are symptoms and risk factors all new parents should be mindful of.

If you’re experiencing PPD, you’re not alone. Help is available, and the sooner you take action, the better.

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Can Men Have Postpartum Depression?

While PPD is less understood in men compared to women, this condition affects approximately 8-10% of fathers. This rate is only slightly lower than the rate among women. The highest prevalence occurs within 3 to 6 months postpartum but can develop anytime within the first 12 months.

A 2014 study found that depression among new dads increases by 68% during the first five years of their baby’s life. This number is significant and is something that society needs to talk about. The researchers concluded that identifying at-risk fathers and designing effective interventions can help improve health outcomes for the entire family.

Most women will be screened for PPD following the birth of a child, but the same approach is not typically taken for men. There is evidence that screening alone can offer clinical benefits, although further treatment and referral to a mental health care provider yield the greatest benefit.

Health care professionals are aware that postpartum depression occurs in men, yet they still know little about it. This topic has piqued interest throughout the medical community in recent years, but it’s still flying under the radar. The research is not clear whether there’s a definitive link between a father’s depression and childbirth. However, changes in family dynamics, loss of sleep, and increasing responsibilities do increase risk.

Signs of Postpartum Depression in Men

To be diagnosed with PPD, five or more of the following symptoms must be present within the same two-week period. Men must experience a change from previous functioning and have at least one of these symptoms — a depressed mood or a loss of interest.

  • Depressed mood for most of the day, felt nearly every day
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in activities, nearly every day
  • Changes in weight (weight gain or weight loss)
  • Changes in sleep (sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia)
  • Psychomotor agitation, observable by others
  • Loss of energy or sustained fatigue
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, which may be delusional
  • Poor concentration
  • Recurrent thoughts of death

The symptoms above must cause impairment in your occupational or social life, and must not be attributed to the effects of substance use or another medical condition.

It’s important to note that men show different signs of depression compared to women. Men may not appear sad or cry. Instead, their depression may surface as feelings of frustration and anger.

Risk Factors of PPD in Men

Besides the symptoms above, please remain mindful of the following risk factors:

  • History of depression
  • Poverty
  • Maternal depression
  • Marital discord
  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Feeling excluded or jealous of mother-baby bonding
  • Difficulty developing an attachment to the baby

The greatest predictor of a man’s risk of depression is whether his partner is also depressed. Up to half of all men whose partners have PPD are depressed themselves. This can have devastating consequences.

The Effects of PPD in Men

When men are depressed, this can influence how they interact with their children. Their depression can also create a ripple effect throughout the entire family. For example, depressed fathers are much more likely to spank their children than those who are not depressed. They are also less likely to interact in positive ways, such as reading to their child or playing games.

A study published in Pediatrics found that approximately 40% of depressed fathers surveyed said they spanked their kids at age one, compared to 13% of fathers who were not depressed.

Depressed fathers are also typically less involved with their kids, which can lead to language delays and disruptive behavior, as well as potential emotional or social issues later in life.

How to Address Postpartum Depression in Men

Perhaps one of the most important steps to take when aiming to improve symptoms of PPD in men is to remain aware of changes and to stay educated. Be able to spot red flags can make an immense difference in terms of outcomes — not just in terms of the father’s mental health, but also the well-being of the child.

Step one: Watch for changes

Following the birth of your child, consider changes in how you’re sleeping and eating. It’s normal to have less energy at the beginning — you’re caring for a baby. However, if your mood begins to shift out of its normal state for several weeks, it’s important to discuss your concerns.

Step two: Talk about it

Confide in someone you trust, whether that be your partner, friend, or health care provider. Being open about how you’re feeling will ensure positive intervention. If left untreated, postpartum depression in men can last for weeks or months. When ignored, serious repercussions may occur.

Step three: Seek professional help

Seeking help is both brave and admirable. When you get the help you need, it will benefit your entire family dynamic. At Highland Springs, we offer a wide selection of evidence-based treatment options, including programs specifically for postpartum depression.

Take the next step to protect you and your child’s future. Call us today for more information.

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