It’s a topic not usually discussed publicly, but doctors are saying the problem is more widespread than you would think: Fathers suffering from postpartum depression.
It’s supposed to be a happy time for a new father – the birth of a child – but suddenly a screaming baby and sleepless nights make him feel helpless and out of control.
“I think new fathers have indeed suffered depression for a long time, but that the equality of gender in our society now makes it a little easier to speak about,” said Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and Fox News contributor.
There are even Web sites dedicated to the topic, which address the symptoms, treatments and support groups.
“In my own practice, I have treated many men with postpartum depression who see the birth of their children as heralding major changes in their lives, including higher levels of responsibility and commitment, which can be anxiety-provoking,” Ablow wrote. “Others fear that they will lose the affection of their wives as attention is (appropriately) diverted from them to their children.”
Men who have a history of depression are at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression, as are men whose partners are also depressed.
Like most cases of depression, symptoms include low mood, tearfulness, decreased energy, low self-esteem, impaired sleep and/or appetite and thoughts of suicide, Ablow said.
While postpartum depression in fathers usually occurs within four weeks of the baby’s delivery, Ablow said he has seen some cases develop after the three-month mark.
If you suspect your baby's father is suffering from postpartum depression, be supportive, Ablow advised. Remind him that his feelings are only temporary and they won’t last forever. Urge him to go to counseling, as psychotherapy is often an effective means of treatment.
“Psychotherapy is very effective in treating postpartum depression in men because the issues are so often tied to their own suboptimal experiences with their dads and their misgivings about marriage and commitment,” Ablow said. “Medications, including SSRIs, can also be very helpful.”
Women should try to include the new dads into the new ritual of mother-child bonding. He may feel withdrawn from the child, and encouraging him to spend time with the new baby may be helpful. Also, scheduling some time for romance — maybe a “date night” — can’t hurt either.