Understandably, most of us associate postpartum depression with women who have just given birth. After all, research shows that around 12% of healthy mothers with no history of depression will experience a bout of postpartum depression. What is perhaps less discussed is the fact that men can also develop postpartum depression, but their symptoms may look a little different from those experienced by women. Here, learn about postpartum depression symptoms in men, as well as where men can turn for treatment.
Prevalence of Postpartum Depression in Men
The answer to, “Can men develop postpartum depression?” is a resounding, “Yes!” A review of the research on paternal postpartum depression shows that in the year following childbirth, 8.75% of fathers experience postpartum depression, and nearly 9% experience symptoms of depression within a month of their babies being born. Based upon these figures, rates of postpartum depression among fathers are similar to those seen in mothers, and men may be in need of support during the period after childbirth as well.
How Postpartum Depression Looks in Men
Since we tend to associate postpartum depression with women, men may be somewhat neglected in the research on this condition. Fortunately, experts writing for the Journal of Family issues recently conducted a study in which they interviewed fathers about their experiences with depression after their babies were born.
Some themes that arose from the interviews were as follows:
- Men need more education. Many participants indicated that they didn’t know men could have postpartum depression, and they didn’t realize other men were also experiencing symptoms.
- Confusion. Men in the study were frustrated because even therapists didn’t inform them about postpartum depression in men, and they treated men for other issues, such as psychosis. Men were confused, because when they sought out information on their own, they could not find any that pertained to postpartum depression in fathers.
- Concern over gender roles. Men who experienced depression symptoms felt the need to be tough and “suck it up,” because they felt that is what is expected of men. Some also reported that they pulled away from their families and repressed their feelings, because they thought that their feelings meant that they were failing as a husband and father.
- Fear of expressing feelings. Numerous fathers in the study said they were afraid of telling their wives how they felt, and others were reluctant to talk to friends. They reported that they thought their feelings were “ridiculous,” and one man even shared that he sometimes cried alone in his office.
- Feelings of overwhelm. Men also indicated that they were ready to be fathers, but were overwhelmed by feelings of misery and other negative emotions, like anger, irritability, and helplessness.
- Resentment. Some men in the study shared that they had feelings of resentment toward their babies, because they were fed up with the baby’s need for constant attention, and the baby’s frequent crying. Men shared having thoughts of harming themselves or the baby, and then feeling guilty about these thoughts.
- Feeling neglected. Men shared that they felt neglected by their wives, their healthcare providers, and society as a whole. They felt it was not acceptable for them to share their feelings. One man shared that his wife was given a depression assessment at a follow-up visit with the doctor, and he felt that he should have been given the same assessment.
Based upon the findings of this study, it is clear that men can experience postpartum depression symptoms, and their symptoms are similar to those experienced by women. For instance, common signs of postpartum depression in women include irritability, guilt, feelings of helplessness, and thoughts of harming oneself or the baby. The men in the study above reported experiencing these symptoms.
What is also striking about the research is that men are clearly aware of the stigma that exists surrounding depression among men. They were fearful to talk to someone, and felt they needed to “suck it up” because that is simply what men do. Ultimately, this led men to keep to themselves and suffer in silence.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
If you feel that you or a father in your life may have postpartum depression, it can be helpful to know the signs of this condition. While symptoms are typically described in reference to women, the reality is that men can also experience these symptoms, based upon the research.
Below are signs that you or a man in your life is living with postpartum depression:
- Irritable mood
- Constantly feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Experiencing emotions like guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, or feelings of worthlessness
- Being uninterested in usual hobbies
- Loss of energy
- Restless behavior
- Trouble with memory, concentration, and decision-making
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Lack of bonding with the baby
- Feeling as if you’re unable to care for the baby
- Aches and pains that have no medical cause and do not subside when treated
- Thoughts of death, or thinking about harmful yourself or the baby
Treatment for Postpartum Depression in Fathers
If you’re experiencing signs of postpartum depression, it is time to seek treatment, not only for yourself, but also for the health and wellbeing of your family and your baby. You may be ashamed to reach out for treatment, but the truth is that many men are also experiencing symptoms of depression. What you are experiencing may be troubling, but it is common, and treatment is available. When you take the first step to reach out for help, you are showing other men that it is important to take care of mental health.
Depression is often treated by a combination of medication and therapy. In talk therapy, you can process your emotions with a counselor and overcome negative feelings. A specific type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful, as it can teach you to replace your negative thoughts with healthier ways of thinking, in order to alleviate depression signs like sadness and feelings of helplessness.
While counseling and medications can be effective for treating postpartum depression in men, some people do not receive adequate symptom relief with this usual course of treatment. In this case, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) may be beneficial. This non-invasive treatment option does not require anesthesia, and it involves placing a magnetic coil over the head to stimulate areas of the brain involved in mood. Pulse TMS serves patients in the Los Angeles area, and we are happy to work with men experiencing postpartum depression signs. Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.