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Child Health 411

with Ari Brown, MD

Educated parents are empowered parents! Get clear answers to your parenting questions from Dr. Ari Brown, author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sad Dads and Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression has received more attention in recent years. But, most of it has focused on moms. A new study published in JAMA found some interesting results: About 10% of dads suffer from postpartum depression, too.

Yes, 1 in 10 dads become seriously depressed between their partners’ first trimester and in the first year (usually, the first three to six months) of their child’s life. And, men are more likely to be depressed when their partners are depressed. As you might imagine, it’s difficult to provide a nurturing environment for a baby when both parents are feeling down. This is a real issue for new parents to be aware of.

So, why do dads get depressed? You’d think any new parent would be elated to hold a precious newborn in their arms. Although guys can’t blame it on their hormones, sleep deprivation has a major impact on someone’s view of life. Spend two (or more) months with three-hour stretches of sleep and see how you feel! Some dads also get stressed about 50/50 shared parenting responsibilities. (Although they are happy to help, many of them don’t have their own dads as role models.)

Dads’ depression symptoms often go unnoticed. That’s because men don’t cry. Depressed men may act angry, withdrawn or even abusive. It’s important for friends, family and health care providers to identify dads with postpartum depression and encourage them to seek help.

How do you avoid falling into postpartum depression?

  • Divide and conquer. Share nighttime responsibilities so each parent can get a decent stretch of sleep. Or, take one whole “night off” every few nights to catch up on sleep. (After the first few weeks, moms who are breastfeeding can pump and collect milk for a nighttime feeding of breast milk in a bottle.)
  • Me time. Schedule a few moments of time for yourself every day. New parents get wrapped up in the constant demands of a newborn that they forget about themselves. Take a moment to reconnect with your own life. Happy parents raise happy children.
  • Ask for or accept help. If a family member or friend offers to help out with the baby, say, “YES!”
  • Call in a pro. If your partner notices a change in your mood and suggests you seek professional help, get help!
  • Communicate. New parents need to talk to each other about parenting responsibilities and roles and keep those lines of communication open.

Have you dealt with postpartum depression? Comment on this post on the Baby’s First Year Exchange.

Posted by: Ari Brown, MD at 2:51 pm