By Jacki Christopher
About Dads, For Moms. We talk to moms a lot about postpartum depression and how to recognize and prevent it in themselves. But this week Welcome Baby Care wants to help educate you on a men’s issue that’s starting to gain traction in the media and the medical community—paternal postpartum depression.
An Unexpected Victim. Postpartum depression in moms is starting to slip outside of the realm of the shameful taboo. Women, though slowly perhaps, are recognizing and talking about their less-than-blissful new baby sentiments. But depression is sinking its claws into a new victim: new dads. Daddy depression is on the rise and while there is still a lot of investigating to be done into the underlying causes, one thing is certain: women aren’t the only ones who get the baby blues.
A Secret Struggle. Moms and moms-to-be, we know you have so much to think about right now. You’re fighting your own hormones, trying to keep yourself and your baby healthy, just keeping your head about water. But the interesting thing about the sad dad is that he’s often afraid to let his wife into his struggle. Men have reported that, seeing their wives so busy with their new baby, they were reluctant to tell her they were struggling with anxiety, depression, and feelings of regret. Fear of disclosure drives them deeper into the isolation—compounding the problem.
A Predisposition. For a lot of men, paternal postpartum depression arises out of a predisposition to depression in general. If a man has struggled with depression or anxiety in the past, it is very likely that a new event such as a new baby, though happy and exciting, can trigger some unexpected father feelings. In these cases, the root cause may be related to clinical depression or chemical imbalance. A lot of us get comfortable in a lifestyle that helps us to keep our mental and emotional ups and downs at bay. Bring in a new baby and watch that comfortable control vaporize.
The Fear Factor. Though they might not be able to recognize or admit it, many men dip into a state of near-paralysis due to fear. Though confident in so many areas of their lives, upon becoming a father, men often feel a profound pressure to provide, to exhibit maturity, to leave behind the fun times with the guys. The transition is shocking—pushing them into a state of hopelessness, anxiety, and regret. These feelings can be so powerful and overwhelming—especially during that newborn phase—that they fear they will never enjoy their life again. These thoughts and sentiments drive them deeper into desolation.
What You Can Do About Daddy Depression. Moms, it isn’t your job to diagnose and treat dad, but raising your little one(s) is going to take both of you operating in harmony. Depression in the home has detrimental effects on every member of the household. Nurturing and caring for your baby means nurturing and caring for each other.
–Keep an eye on dad. Does he seem withdrawn, tense? Don’t just chalk it up to the new baby transition. Pay attention to shifts in moods and behaviors.
-Encourage him to be honest. Men are typically reluctant to simply start talking about their fears and uncertainties, especially when it comes to a new baby—something that is supposed to be the vehicle of bliss and fulfillment. You may start by honestly expressing your own doubts, fears, and insecurities, and asking him if he ever feels the same.
-Together time. Lack of communication and exhaustion from the new baby schedule is a recipe for depression disaster. You need time to keep the two of you strong so that you can be great parents together. The money and time you spend on this is more than worth it. Do whatever you have to in order to carve out the couple-time.
–Get help. If you are new parents and feeling uncertain about how to take care of baby, don’t let those anxieties drive either of you deeper into that place of no return—even a few hours with a doula at your side can put both of you at ease and help you regain that confidence and excitement about your new little bundle of joy.
For a recent BBC article about how doulas and postpartum caregivers help decrease the occurrence of postpartum depression, click here.
For a recent article by Welcome Baby Care on Paternal Postpartum Depression risk factors, click here.
For professional help and an online paternal postpartum depression forum, click here.
Postpartum depression, in moms and dads, is a primary concern for us at Welcome Baby Care—we might even say it is the primary concern. Do you have questions about postpartum depression? Want to find out how a doula can help? Please don’t hesitate to contact us here.