When we hear people talk about postpartum depression, it’s usually associated with new mothers. But did you know that as many as 2,700 new fathers are diagnosed every day with Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND)? That’s up to 1 in 4 new dads who are having trouble coping with the transition to fatherhood.
Just like with postpartum depression in women, PPND has nothing to do with love and has everything to do with feeling overwhelmed by the new responsibilities that come with having a baby, whether it’s the first or the last. Fathers who are experiencing PPND might have some of these symptoms:
- Loses desire to care for the baby
- Feels anxious
- Has trouble sleeping, even when the baby is sleeping well
- Stops doing the things he loves, even when his partner encourages him
- Starts drinking or drinks more than before
- Gets reprimanded for slacking off at work
- Feels suicidal
The thing about spotting PPND is that because new moms are also stressed and sleep-deprived, she might not pick up on the signs that her husband or partner is sinking into depression. That’s why it’s important for grandparents, relatives and friends to be astute and know the symptoms, and to recognize when normal new baby fatigue is on the cusp of becoming something more serious, or dangerous.
Our culture tends to toss off postpartum challenges as a normal initiation to parenthood, and in some cases they’re right. Normal is when that new baby fatigue and feelings of overwhelm diminish when dad gets back to a regular routine and baby starts to sleep for longer periods. But for the 10-25% of men who truly are experiencing postnatal depression, getting help sooner than later is critical. Here are a few places to go for help:
- Family physician
- Mom’s OB or midwife
- Church staff or friends
- Insurance company
- Your baby’s pediatrician
- Facebook groups; you can join Postpartum Dads by sending them an email
Postpartum Dads also has personal stories that dads wrote, recounting their own experiences with depression and the struggles and triumphs they went through on their way to recovery.
With Father’s Day around the corner, let’s acknowledge that being a dad is not easy. Some need help understanding their new role and what they can do to support their partners and family. Others need day-to-day help to figure out how to stay balanced between work and family life. If you know a dad who seems to be struggling, reach out, ask him what he needs and how you can help.
If you have a story of PPND you’d like to share, help another dad and post it to our Facebook page.