What About the Fathers?
New fathers are frequently left out of the conversations about mental health when a new baby is born. While there is growing recognition of the high rates of maternal mental health difficulties after welcoming a new baby, what is much less focused on is the fact that around 1 in 10 new dads will also struggle with depression after the birth of a new baby and close to 1 in 5 will experience anxiety.
Paternal postpartum depression can be a lot harder to recognize and identify for a variety of reasons. New moms commonly interact with many medical professionals in the postpartum period – at postpartum checkups, well baby visits, etc. New dads may not always be at these visits, and if they are present, they are not being asked by medical professionals how they are doing. The focus is very much on the new baby and the mom, meaning symptoms of depression may go unnoticed. Additionally, if you, as a new dad, are struggling in the postpartum period, it isn’t uncommon for your partner to be struggling as well. One of the strongest risk factors for developing paternal postpartum depression is if your partner is experiencing maternal postpartum depression. When both you and your partner are in need of support at the same time, it can be harder to speak up and communicate about your struggles and ask for help. There is often this feeling that you should be “strong” and “power through”.
Paternal postpartum depression can also manifest in slightly different ways than maternal postpartum depression. Dads who are experiencing paternal postpartum depression may experience:
- Frustration and irritability
- Isolating from family and friends
- Problems with concentration and motivation
- Loss of interest
- Significant weight gain or loss
While some of the manifestations of paternal postpartum depression may be different, just like with maternal postpartum depression, if you notice you are experiencing any of these symptoms and they are impacting your quality of life or ability to care for yourself, there are many ways to reach out for support.
- Reach out to family and friends who you feel comfortable sharing with, perhaps try reaching out to other dads.
- Communicate with your partner about your need for support.
- Look for a support group to attend – Postpartum Support International has some great virtual support group options specifically for new dads and a Dad’s Chat Session.
- Reach out to a therapist!
Remember, you are not alone and there is help out there!