Here are the factors and signs of paternal postnatal depression.
When people typically talk about postpartum depression, they mention the
crippling anxiety and sadness, the mood swings, and difficulty in bonding
with the baby. What they usually don't mention is that mothers aren't
the only ones who can feel this way.
"New fathers can also suffer from depression either during pregnancy
or after the birth--it's called paternal postnatal depression,"
says Katie L. Monarch, MSW, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker and
coordinator of the
Postpartum Depression Program at
St. Joseph Hospital, Orange.
A recent report in
JAMA Psychiatry is just the latest in a group of studies confirming this finding. "Although
fathers aren't usually screened for postpartum depression as mothers
are, it's important to recognize when a dad's feelings go beyond
the usual stresses caused by normal life changes, such as lack of sleep,
that a new baby can bring. That's especially crucial because men tend
to not talk about or seek help for depression, and their symptoms can
be different than what women experience. Depression can affect the family
dynamic--creating a wedge between the parents and possibly having a negative
impact on the child," Monarch says.
Know the risks
There are some factors that can give men a stronger likelihood of paternal
postnatal depression, Monarch says. "If a man has a history of depression,
that can play a part. If his partner has postpartum depression, that can
also increase the risk, as can any underlying marital conflicts or issues
between the parents."
Relationship tension isn't the only kind of stress that puts dads at
risk. "Fathers may be worried about finances with a new baby to provide
for, so any workplace stress, such as job instability or even job loss,
can also be a trigger," Monarch says.
And it's harder to take care of someone else, especially a newborn,
if a dad isn't taking care of himself. "If a man is in poor health--overweight,
smoking or has chronic health conditions that aren't managed properly--it
will be hard to get the energy to move through the depressive symptoms,"
Know the signs
It's one thing for a dad to get snappish if he's been kept up at
night because of a crying baby, but it's something else if he gets
irrationally angry or has a panic attack. "With this kind of depression,
a man's emotions and behaviors can change," Monarch says. "In
addition to anger and panic, he may feel anxiety, sadness or a sense of
uselessness. He can also experience physical symptoms, such as shortness
of breath, fatigue or weight loss or gain."
To loved ones, it may seem as if the dad with depression has undergone
a personality change. "A man who used to show affection freely may
start to withdraw; someone who worked regular nine-to-five hours may stay
late at the office on a regular basis or someone who is usually solid
and dependable will take unhealthy risks, such as drinking more frequently,"
"Should a new dad exhibit any of these behaviors, and if they go on
for more than two weeks, it is time to have a conversation about his mental
health and getting him help."
Know how to help
Taking that first step and talking about a father's feelings may be
difficult, but it can set him on the path toward dealing with his paternal
postnatal depression. "A trained therapist can guide him in processing
his emotions and issues; he can go alone or with his partner, depending
on the circumstances," Monarch says. "In addition to talking
with a therapist, it will help a father to develop a support network,
such as friendships with other new dads, that he can turn to when he needs
to share what's on his mind. Depending on the symptoms and their severity,
a therapist may prescribe anti-depression medication as well."
Finally, new dads should establish healthy lifestyle habits. "If men
foods that are good for them,
abstain from smoking and
lower their stress levels, it will help them feel better--these are positive forces that can help
lift the spirit and counterbalance the negative feelings," Monarch says.
St. Joseph Hospital, Orange, offers comprehensive treatment and support
for postpartum depression, provided by an expert team of psychiatrists,
licensed clinical therapists and social workers, in a supportive and therapeutic
environment. To learn more, click
here or call 714-771-8101.