August 2, 2022
*Please note that the following blog primarily examines postpartum depression from a heterosexual view. This is not intended nor dismissive of any other sexual identity relationship as postpartum depression can occur in multiple ways across all new parental relationships*
Postpartum depression is a rather familiar and common occurrence pertaining to women that have just given birth. Interestingly, while this condition is almost always associated with women, it’s also possible for men to experience postpartum depression as well. According to the Journal of American Medical Associaton, approximately 10% of fathers experience some sort of depression before or right after their baby is born. But, how exactly can a man be affected physically and emotionally when their partner is the person who actually gave birth? In this post from the Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S’s blog, we’ll explore in greater detail postpartum depression in men.
It’s readily known that women experience biological, hormonal, and physical changes as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, which can contribute to feelings of postpartum depression. Fascinatingly, while hormone changes in pregnant women are a known entity, there’s also evidence that men experience changes in their hormone levels after their child is born as well. Researchers have found ample links between a father's proximity to his children and his levels of hormones associated with nurturing. In addition to potential hormonal changes, there are a number of additional factors that can occur after a child is born that may result in most postpartum depression in men.
It’s no secret that a newborn baby requires significant attention and prioritization. This need can contribute to fathers feeling less cared for and nurtured by their partners as well as create a “competition” of sorts for the mother/partner's affection. Additionally, the bonding process with a newborn can be experienced differently between a mother and father contributing to a potentially deeper bond between the mother and child in comparison to the father and child. This “deeper” bond formed between a mother and their child can leave the father feeling more isolated or lonely than he experienced before the birth of the child.
When a new child is born, men can feel a sense of urgency and pressure that they must financially provide for their child in a more significant way than they had experienced previously. This can contribute to ongoing stress and feelings of hopelessness and fear in ways that we’ve not previously experienced. Depending on the emotional capacity, emotional propensity, and resiliency of the father, this additional pressure can contribute to depression and generalized anxiety.
Throughout different cultures and societies, it’s often unconsciously expected and reinforced that new parents “should” be exceedingly happy after the birth of their child. This added expectation can be complicated or confusing if either parent does not always feel excited or perpetually elated after the birth of their child. Our emotional lives are complex and it is normal to have a range of different emotions with significant adjustment periods such as the birth of a child.
New parents often experience a significant lack of sleep and lack of emotional and physical intimacy which can contribute to challenging feelings and moods at times. The research shows two significant dips in relationship satisfaction across the lifespan. One is when the first child is born and the other is when they reach their teenage years. This “dip” is normal and is not an indication in and of itself that something is tremendously wrong in the relationship, but it simply further indicates that this period of time can be challenging dynamically.
If you or a new father in your life has been exhibiting some out-of-character behavior, it could be a result of postpartum depression. Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression in men can include:
These are a few of the telltale signs of postpartum depression in men. It should also be noted that men who have experienced standard depression are at a greater risk of postpartum depression.
At Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates, our team of therapists and counselors has assisted many new fathers with this adjustment period and overcome the feelings associated with postpartum depression. To schedule an appointment or to learn more, give us a call or contact us online today.