The term “baby blues” was previously only associated with women—after all, one in three women suffer from depression after they give birth. But men can also be considerably affected by extreme emotional lows during this period. Studies show that one in 10 fathers struggle with postpartum depression—especially following the first three to six months after the birth of their child. While the baby blues disappears on its own after a short time, postpartum depression can persist and usually requires appropriate treatment. The risk of experiencing postpartum depression is higher in men whose partners are also suffering from the condition.
Causes of Postpartum Depression in Men
When a child is born, the parents’ lives are turned upside down. Nothing is the way it was before. These changes not only bring positive feelings; fears, doubts and constant mental overload can trigger an emotional turbulence in both men and women. Many men worry about losing their “freedom” after the birth of the baby. The reality of fatherhood and being responsible for the life of another person can be overwhelming. Add to this the constant lack of sleep and the financial pressure of having to work to support a family now. Many men feel neglected by their partner since the partner tends to devote her full attention to the baby and has little energy left to take the man’s needs into consideration. During this challenging time, many relationships may fail entirely.
What are the Signs of Postpartum Depression in Men?
While women who suffer from postpartum depression often feel listless, dejected and tired, men usually have different symptoms. They tend to take refuge in other activities such as sports or consume excessive amounts of alcohol or nicotine. In addition, they’re more prone to irritability, anger flare-ups, aggression and even violence. During this time, many men also consider cheating.
A team of scientists led by Jan Nicholson, Research Director at the Parenting Research Centre in Melbourne, found that nearly 10 percent of men are affected by the baby blues in the first year after the birth of their child. The researchers conducted a study that involved analyzing the psychological state of 3,471 men whose children were aged up to five years. These men’s psychological profiles were compared with those of the “general adult male population.” The researchers found that young men are 40 percent more likely to experience problems associated with the baby blues than men in general. Nicholson and her team also reported that in the worst cases, postpartum depression may persist into early childhood. Men also reported more stress-related symptoms (9.7 percent) than women (9.4 percent). Nicholson emphasized that these study results show how important it is that men also receive support after the baby is born.
How to Cope with Postpartum Depression
While women are usually more open to talking about their concerns, men tend to keep them to themselves. This further exacerbates psychological problems, which is why it’s so important for men to talk about their feelings with their partner rather than shutting their partner out. It’s also crucial for men to actively care for the baby during the initial phase following the birth and not to leave everything up to the mother. Closely interacting with the baby strengthens the emotional bond. But couple time shouldn’t be neglected either: In addition to caring for their children, parents should make time for themselves as individuals and as a couple. Joint activities can revive the relationship and help recharge your batteries. Don’t hesitate to ask a family member to babysit occasionally so you can have some downtime. Special support groups for men can also be a valuable aid in coping with postpartum depression. However, if depression symptoms persist for a longer period of time, it’s recommended to consult a doctor who can help you take the necessary steps for effective treatment.