Having a baby can be a wonderful event for a couple. Hospitals and doctors have been very active in asking new mothers about how they are doing emotionally, as a way to catch any postpartum depression. When I noticed a change in my partner after our daughter was born, I was not sure how to handle it. Was his change in emotions, growing anxiety, and negative mood something that would just pass or was it more severe? As a licensed social worker, I began to talk to colleagues and research the notion of men with postpartum depressive signs.
Symptoms. Depression is still an area that is being researched. Professionals are just beginning to understand postpartum depression in women and there is little information on warning signs about male depression and mood changes after the birth of a child. Websites such as WebMD give an overview of possible warning signs for new dads, which include but are not limited to frustration or irritability, being easily stressed, impulsiveness, feeling discouraged, working constantly, misuse of drugs or alcohol, and experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are. Many times men think that these feelings will go away after they adjust to life with a new baby in the home; however, without proper treatment these feelings could intensify. More information regarding these symptoms can be found at Postpartum Men, a site dedicated to this topic.
Treatment. Men usually feel that they can solve their own problems, thus there is a resistance to counseling. As a social worker, even when I saw my partner having these signs of depression, he was adamant that he was fine despite the overwhelming signs that he was not. Paternal Postnatal Depression is somewhat common and the strongest thing a new father can do is to seek treatment because the consequences of not resolving it can be severe. Avoiding treatment can damage the relationship between a man and his partner and have negative effects on the emotional development of the child. Finding a counselor that specializes in working with male depression is the first step, as the way men and women experience depression differs resulting in different intervention methods. There are agencies within communities that can offer referrals. These include local men’s groups or father’s groups, your child’s doctor, your primary care physician, family service agencies, or mental health agencies.
Raise Awareness. The media covered celebrities such as Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow regarding their postpartum depression, but little focus has been on men and the emotional changes that can occur after becoming a father. With a study that was reported on WedMD, at least 1 in 10 men will suffer from moderate to severe postpartum depression and with the stresses of the economy that number could be expected to grow. This lack of awareness leads new parents down a path of confusion, stress, and feelings of being alone. Advocacy and support for men with this type of depression needs to gain attention in order to help parents know and understand the warning signs and symptoms.