Much of the conversation about postpartum mental health revolves around the woman, the mother. Her body hasn’t been her own for the guts of a year, hormone levels are all over the place, and sleep levels are minimal. The conversation about postpartum depression centres around the mother’s mood and pressure applied to her. It’s a much needed conversation – 1 in 7 women are affected by PostPartum depression, and those are the reported figures. Many women suffer in silence from shame, from fear of the consequences for their family, from simply hoping it will go away. However, despite the conversation being all about the mothers, there is increasing evidence that it affects the fathers almost as much. We need to start talking about Paternal PostPartum Depression.
Paternal PostPartum Depression (PPPD) affects one in ten men, according to a 2010 study in the Journal of American Medical Association. The evidence, a study of 28,000 men over a 19 year period, also showed that there is a spike in the figures reporting depression 3-6 months after the birth of the child, when the average is 26%. At 26%, this is double the normal rate of male depression. Interestingly, it also reported that in HALF of all families where the mothers suffer with Postpartum depression, the father also falls victim to it in some level.
Reporting of paternal postpartum depression is much lesser than that of females. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, societal norms often prevent men from speaking out about mental health issues. This is not restricted to postpartum depression but also in general life. Much of it may lie in the seeming importance of being seen as strong, and admitting to these feelings can feel like a weakness. The early days of parenthood revolve around the health of mother and baby, and in this instance, it can be difficult for men to admit that they are not adjusting to this new life change as well.
So, What Causes Paternal PostPartum Depression (PPPD)?
The factors that lead to men suffering from postpartum depression are as varied as those that affect women. Biologically, it is assumed that the different hormone levels play a huge role in female depression, and this is also the case when it comes to men. Despite men not physically carrying the baby, evidence has shown that they do undergo a drop in testosterone and an increase in their estrogen, prolactin and cortisol levels. There are increased levels of pressure placed on the men to be the one holding things together. The shift in life circumstances from being childless to being responsible for another human being is a huge mental shift, and one which can be underestimated by many when looking at the fathers.
A lack of social support also increases the risk of PPND, particularly among men who belong to non-traditional families. An unplanned pregnancy, or a lack of choice and preparation, also appears to increase the risk.
Men with lower levels of education are also at greater risk. This appears to be because less educated fathers have more difficulty in obtaining information about PPND and access to services they may need.
What Are The Signs of Paternal PostPartum Depression?
The symptoms for postpartum depression in males and females differ greatly. What are the main things to look out for?
- Panic Attacks
- Feeling worthless
- Immersion in work – this can be a response to stress by many, as this is where they feel they can excel and ignore their home life.
- Less bond with baby
- Reckless Behaviour – drugs, alcohol, gambling.
What Can I Do If I Think I/My Partner Have Paternal PostPartum Depression?
The first step is to open communication lines – start a conversation about how you’re honestly feeling with the ones around you.
Speak to your doctor – they will be able to carry out tests to ensure that there are no hidden issues going on with hormone levels or other issues. They will be able to discuss treatment options with you, from talk therapy to medication, dependent on your needs.
PPPD is a very treatable condition, but it is important to take action as early as possible. Holding back and not reporting it, instead choosing to suffer in silence, can have very damaging effects down the line, in particular with the bond with the child and therefore the child’s development. If you’re reluctant to come forward with it, think about this. Research shows that a father’s PPND has a negative impact on the emotional and behavioural development of his child years later. So, the best thing you can do to provide for your child’s future is to get help for yourself today.
The conversation about mental health in society has changed drastically in the last fifteen years, for the better. While PPPD is in many cases a silent epidemic, there isn’t a need to remain suffering in silence. Getting the help you need is vital for your own wellbeing. Look after yourself, and look after your future.
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