“Dr Linda, I am so angry and frustrated since we had our baby, what is going on?”
New dads: It is very normal to feel some frustration and anxiety as you adjust to your new responsibilities as a dad, like your partner’s “baby blues,” however, if these strong feelings last longer than 2 weeks or get worse you may actually have postpartum depression.
Men may have the same symptoms of postpartum depression as their partners, many, however, have symptoms that are different. Feeling extremely stressed, irritable and angry almost every day are also symptoms of postpartum depression in men.
Male Postpartum Depression - Dads with Postpartum Depression… REALLY !?
How Often do Men Experience PPD?
Between 4-25 per hundred first time dads get postpartum depression. This increases to 25-50 per hundred dads whose partners have postpartum depression.
So, you can see postpartum depression in dads is a very real problem. Most health care providers are not familiar enough with postpartum depression in dads to ask you about it. If you think you have PPD please bring it up with your doctor so you can get the support you need. There is no need to suffer in silence.
Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression in Dads
- A partner with PPD.
- Overwhelm: Feeling unable to take care of all you need to take care of, and of learning all you need to learn.
- Being unhappy or unsatisfied with your relationship with your partner.
How Does Postpartum Depression in Dads Affect Others?
- It negatively impacts your relationship with your partner.
- It leads to less secure bonding with your baby because dads with postpartum depression are less likely to read to, play with or sing to their babies. This also affects your child’s speech and vocabulary development.
- Dads with untreated postpartum depression tend to have children (especially boys) with behavior problems.
Why is postpartum depression more challenging in dads than in moms?
- Compared to help for new mothers with PPD, there are not as many resources for affected fathers.
- Dads with PPD do not recognize they have a medical problem and so do not ask for help.
- Dads with moderate or severe postpartum depression may not have enough energy to do anything but cope with the day to day challenges of being a new dad and providing for their family. They do not realize that it is the postpartum depression that is causing the extreme tiredness, lack of ability to concentrate and feelings of overwhelm.
- Dads with postpartum depression often do not seek help because they do not believe the problem is real - or that it is a problem that only women experience.
- Men feel they should be the strong presence in the relationship and support everybody else, so they do not seek help for themselves.
- New dads want to put all their energy into learning how to be good fathers, and are not comfortable taking attention away from mom and the baby.
- Dads with postpartum depression do not want to ‘worry’ their partners or stress them out.
How is Postpartum Depression in Dads Different?
Postpartum depression in men is different in two main ways:
- It can develop more slowly, over the first few months of your baby’s life and last up to a year if not treated.
- Dads with postpartum depression may have different symptoms than those in women.In addition to the symptoms of postpartum depression in moms, it may show up as unexplained irritability, anger and feelings of aggressiveness towards others.
Treatment for Dads with Postpartum Depression:
Postpartum depression is a real disorder. Just like diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure. Having PPD does not mean you are weak or less of a man. Getting treatment for your depression will help you feel better, and, will strengthen your bonds with your baby and your partner. It will also support good health for you and your family.
The most used and studied treatments for Postpartum depression in dads are medications and talk therapy/ psychotherapy.
Other Effective Ways to Get the Support You Need:
- Support groups. Knowing that you are not alone and being able to speak to other fathers in your situation is very helpful in the recovery process.
- Parenting classes will help you gain confidence as a dad ,and, to get out and interact with people.
- Couples/family therapy. Getting independent, expert support to navigate the burdens depression places on your relationship with your partner will go a long way to ensuring not just the survival but the thriving of your relationship with your partner.
- Find a mentor. A more experienced man who has already been where you are and to whom you can go for guidance when you need it has been shown to be very helpful for postpartum depression in dads.
- Holistic therapies:
- Exercise: Exercise gets oxygen and nutrients to your brain and body, makes you more fit and improves your mood.Don’t worry, you don’t have to go to the gym for hours on end, a short, high energy workout, a few times a week will improve your mood, improving the effects of any antidepressant medications you may be on.
- Avoid processed foods and foods that contain a lot of sugar.
- Avoid taking too much caffein.7 cups of coffee a day (750mg of caffein) has been associated with depression.
- Be sure you are getting enough essential fatty acids (EFAs). These are fatty acids your body can’t make, so you need to get them in your diet. People on the Mediterranean diet ( with a lot of EFAs from fish and natural folic acid and B vitamins) have a lower risks of depression, and, EFAs have been used successfully to treat depression. Fatty fish (the smaller the better as the small fish contain less mercury), nuts like walnuts, and, ground Flaxseed are good sources of EFAs.
- Get enough vitamins, especially Vitamins B12 and D. Deficiency of these vitamins has been associated with depression. Eating whole grains, and at least 5 portions of vegetables and fruits a day will supply you with the Vitamins and minerals your body needs to make the feel good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Vitamin D is found in egg yolks, foods fortified with Vitamin D like dairy, orange juice and soy, cheese, beef liver and fatty fish.
- Avoid alcohol because it causes depression in your mood.
The following list includes therapies that have been used to treat depression but have not been studied scientifically to prove their consistent benefit.
- Light therapy. This is most effective on treating depression in winter and in people who live in areas without a lot of sunshine.
- A light box can be very helpful.
- Use full spectrum sunshine lights in your workspace.
- Getting out in the sun have all been shown to help with depression.
- Aromatherapy: aromatherapy oils often help with depression and fatigue. Using Citrus oils, angelica and eucalyptus oils may help.
- Music: Upbeat music with positive lyrics is very helpful in the treatment of depression.
- Supplements: Herbs like St. John’s Wort and supplements such as SAMe and 5THP may help. Even though you can get these over the counter they are powerful medicines and can have serious side effects. Please discuss the use of these herbs and supplements with your doctor before trying them to make sure they are safe for you and will not interact with any medications you may be on.
As always, I would love to hear your stories or questions about postpartum depression. Please share your experience … leave a comment, or send me an email (I always reply).
To your holistic health,