Dad’s Not Okay—Postpartum Depression in Men
Postpartum depression (PPD) (also known as prenatal depression) is a mood disorder usually associated with mothers after childbirth. It is characterised by symptoms such as pervasive sadness and a sense of disconnect from the baby.
Although PPD is talked about more in regards to women, about 4 to 25% of men are affected by the disorder as well.
There is need for greater awareness regarding this serious mental health issue; a problem that impacts both father and family.
Signs to look out for
PPD is different from the ‘baby blues’ which manifests in anxiety, trouble sleeping and feeling overwhelmed after labour. The baby blues are normal, as childbirth brings about a flux of hormonal change and shifts in parents’ daily routine.
PPD is not normal.
While symptoms of baby blues can last up to about 2 weeks, PPD’s effects go on for much longer. For some, it continues for months, and for others—years.
Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Severe mood swings
- Heightened irritability
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Problems bonding with the baby
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Feelings of shame or worthlessness
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
- Severe anxiety
What causes it?
It might surprise you to know that fathers also go through hormonal change after pregnancy.
New dads experience a dip in testosterone, which can lead to chronic fatigue and irritability.
This factor—along with other lifestyle adjustments associated with having a new baby—could possibly contribute to the triggering of PPD in men.
In addition, men with partners who are already suffering from postpartum depression are much more likely to get it themselves. One suggests that dads are 2.5 times more likely to get it if their partners have symptoms too.
Here are some other risk factors that may up a man’s chance of having PPD:
- Being a young father
- Marital or relationship issues
- Financial difficulty
- A history of anxiety or depression
- An unplanned pregnancy
- Lack of social and emotional support
- Feelings of exclusion from mother-child bond
Why it’s important to get help
PPD isn’t a walk in the park.
It’s highly difficult for the sufferer and its effects seep into all areas of life. If it isn’t managed, the severity of symptoms may escalate.
While PPD is a disorder that an individual can be diagnosed with, everyone around the sufferer can feel its negative effects. Particularly, children and partners – those who have to live with and are close to the affected party.
Children need their fathers to be emotionally present and engaging in order to develop healthily. Mothers need their partners’ support to raise a child. As PPD casts its shadow upon new dads, the entire family unit might struggle to cope with daily life.
How to get help
Talk to someone you trust, a mental health professional, or medical care provider if you are displaying symptoms.
If someone you love might have it, try talking to him and help him seek professional treatment.
For those expecting a child, you may wish to look into confinement centres around Malaysia, such as in Klang. They offer a safe place and support to both mothers and fathers post-childbirth. This might make transition into postpartum life easier.
At home, you can start small by making sure you take breaks in your day to rest, and finding time to connect with people you care about.
Having PPD is not an indication of being a poor or weak dad, nor is it something you have to resign to. It isn’t your ‘fault’.
Self-care is important and there is no shame in asking for help and acknowledging your struggles—that’s how we get better.
This article has been republished with permission from Kiddy123.