Can Men Get Postnatal Depression?

Are you struggling to connect to your baby? Do you find yourself feeling low, helpless or confused about your future? Perhaps you keep thinking that you’re failing in your new role as a dad. 

Starting a family and having a baby is a life-changing experience which poses many challenges. Overnight, there are new responsibilities, sleepless nights, financial worries and so on. Coping with this significant shift can leave many parents feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious or depressed. While we might commonly associate postnatal depression (PND) with mothers, this mental health issue also happens to men. During the first year of a baby’s life, approximately 10% of fathers show signs of PND, such as tiredness, lack of motivation, confusion or frustration. Read on to find out whether men can get postnatal depression, the causes, the symptoms and the available treatment.

Postnatal Depression In Men

When thinking about postnatal depression, we often think about women. After all, they’re the ones carrying the pregnancy, giving birth, breastfeeding and going through all the hormonal changes. If so, can men get postnatal depression? The simple answer is yes – they also go through their struggles, worries and challenges as fathers. By placing such a big focus on mothers as primary caregivers, much less attention is directed at fathers who might be suffering in silence, especially 3-6 months after the baby’s birth, when the symptoms are most intense. Additionally, many men carry on without a diagnosis or tools to cope with postnatal depression. 

What Are the Signs of Postnatal Depression in Men?

While it’s absolutely natural to feel exhausted, worried or low during this period of adjustment to a new life with a baby, signs of postnatal depression look different among mothers and fathers. For women, this mental health issue linked to big hormonal changes starts early after giving birth and affects daily functioning, causing intensified crying, mood swings, sleeping issues, etc. On the other hand, men can get postnatal depression later on during postpartum period, and the symptoms include:

  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Exhaustion and emotional numbness
  • Feelings of helplessness, uncertainty and indecisiveness
  • Higher irritability, anger, stress and anxiety
  • Difficulty in bonding with their child
  • Loss of interest in the partner
  • Relationship conflict
  • Sleep issues
  • Binge eating or inability to eat
  • Unsettling intrusive thoughts, i.e. images of harming the newborn
  • Negative paternal behaviours, i.e. yelling at the baby
  • Avoidant behaviours such as:
    • Withdrawal from social and family life
    • Substance misuse 
    • Working long hours
  • Tendency to somatise, i.e. migraines, stomachache 

How Common is Postnatal Depression in Men?

Did you know that 1 in 4 fathers experience mild depressive symptoms and 1 in 10 fathers get diagnosed with postnatal depression during the first year after their baby is born?

Additionally, around 25-50% of fathers also get postnatal depression if their partner is already depressed. For example, in the US there are approximately 3% of all families where both parents struggle with depression.

Why Men Might Feel Depressed After Their Baby Is Born?

Are you wondering how it is possible that men can get postnatal depression?

The expectations and myths around starting a family can make us feel as if we can simultaneously do both full-time: work and take care of our babies. It’s something that David Levine, a pediatrician and a father with postnatal depression, refers to as “The Great Lie”. Sooner or later, this illusion of the perfect harmonious life comes crashing down when confronted with the harsh reality of sleep-deprived days, changing diapers and crying newborns. It all takes a huge toll on the relationship between mothers and fathers, creating a lot of stress and discomfort. On top of that, there are many risk factors, such as:

  • Being a first-time father under 25 years old
  • Issues within the relationship with the mother
  • Financial pressures
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • History of mental health issues or addictions
  • Lack of social support

Where Can Dads Go For Support With Postnatal Depression?

8 in 10 men don’t get professional help when needed due to mental health stigma and masculine stereotypes, which is why depressed fathers might feel too embarrassed to admit they’re suffering. 

Perhaps you feel like you’re failing as a parent. Maybe you struggle with shame or guilt connected to the mother having to get up at 5 AM each morning to breastfeed your baby. 

If so, remember that you are not alone. There are thousands of other fathers who are going through this very same experience. All you need to do is talk to others and ask for help. Support groups for fathers with postnatal depression, like Pandas in the UK, can serve as a safe space for you to share your story. 

If you prefer to discuss your situation individually with an experienced therapist, we also offer postnatal depression counselling, where you can learn how to cope with the challenges of parenthood.

How Is Paternal Depression Treated?

Postnatal depression among men is treated the same way as it is among women. Aside from support groups, the treatment most commonly consists of:

A therapeutic setting offers safety within which you can work on your issues comfortably, assisted by a qualified therapist. You can expect to:

  • discuss your thoughts, emotions and behaviours in a respectful and non-judgmental manner. 
  • learn different tools and techniques necessary to support your wellbeing 
  • practice skills which will allow you to challenge unhelpful beliefs, change your emotional states and take charge of your life as a father.

Postnatal Depression Treatment for Dads in London and Online

If you or your loved one is struggling with postnatal depression, remember that they don’t have to cope on their own. Consider getting professional help and talking about your mental health issues to a qualified therapist. Here, at Therapy Central, we offer postnatal depression counselling to assist moms and dads in getting through difficult times and share tools with them to cope effectively with the different hardships that come with parenthood.

Request a free 15-min consultation today to see if our services fit your unique needs.

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