The emotions, anxiety, feelings of isolation and even resentment that new moms feel as they adjust to caring non-stop for an infant isn’t exclusively a mom thing. New dads and partners experience a similar roller coaster of feelings.
They may feel anxious about:
- Caring for an infant and a mother recovering from childbirth
- Being a parent
- Trying to help their partner with the baby while also worrying about the added financial burden.
Dads or partners may feel guilty about:
- Leaving mom home all day with a needy newborn while they’re at work.
- Being resentful when their partner hands them a fussy infant at the end of the day, rather than letting them have some downtime after work
Dads or partners may also feel the same loss of independence that new mothers feel—that life as they knew it will never be the same again.
The trouble is, men aren’t as comfortable talking about these feelings as mothers may be. But they need to. New dads, just like new moms, can get postnatal depression. Their testosterone levels drop a few months before their baby is born and don’t return to normal until a few months afterward. Low testosterone levels are associated with depression in men.
A review of 43 studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found depression rates of about 10% in new dads, with rates of 25% 3 to 6 months after their babies’ birth. Ironically, that’s when most new moms are starting to feel more comfortable in their roles and in caring for their infants. If the moms are dealing with postpartum depression, themselves, however, this analysis of research found that their male partners have a 25% to 50% chance of also suffering from depression.
Symptoms to Watch For
So what does a stressed and depressed new dad look like? Symptoms include:
- feeling lethargic and sleeping excessively
- withdrawing, enjoying life less, not wanting to socialize
- feeling restless, irritable and even aggressive
Dads suffering from depression may try to escape the stress by spending all their time at work or doing a hobby, and/or engaging more in risky behaviors such as drinking or gambling.
Postnatal depression in men or other partners is treatable, just as postpartum depression is in mothers. If you believe your partner is suffering from depression, talk with him or her about what’s going on. Encourage him or her to see a healthcare provider. Stay supportive and patient and approach all of this as the team you are. Getting help and support is important for you—and for the well-being of your baby.
See also ...
• Helping dads overcome the baby blues and depression (includes a depression-assessment quiz)
This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.
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