Studies Find Postpartum Depression in New Dads

Preparing for the arrival of a child is an exciting time, and when that time finally comes and a baby arrives, the mother and father’s world simply stops to embrace this pure moment of joy.

But despite the happy juncture, there’s still a plethora of new challenges that the new mommy will have to face, no matter how prepared she is: new and changing routines to adapt to, new responsibilities to take on, copious amounts of sleep to lose. Her life will never be the same, and that realization will challenge her mentally and can result in postpartum depression, a serious mood disorder that can affect new mothers. Some mothers experience this after giving birth, but it can also appear days or even months after delivering a baby, and can last for a very long time  if left untreated.

But she’s not the only one. Experts say depression can also hit the new daddy just as hard.

A study published in the American Medical Association journal found that 10 percent of new fathers can experience paternal postpartum depression–or PPPD–en route to becoming a father. That number jumped to 26 percent between the 3-6 month period after the baby’s born, especially if their partner is experiencing postpartum depression. Additionally, up to 18 percent can even develop a clinically significant anxiety disorder, including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Paternal postpartum depression in fathers is not as widely discussed or screened for as maternal postpartum depression, and identifying its early symptoms, such as sleeplessness and lack of interest in the mother and baby, can be difficult. While some men can experience the classical symptom of sadness, most men will appear angry, anxious, fearful or irritated, and may even show signs of aggression through their thoughts, words and actions.

The fact that so many new and expecting dads go through it makes it a significant public-health concern—one that physicians and mental-health providers have largely overlooked,” said James F. Paulson, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Old Dominion University.

Paternal postpartum depression is very serious and, if left unaddressed and untreated, can result in damaging, long-term consequences for the entire family. Spouses and close family members are the first line of defense in recognizing postpartum depression in new mothers and fathers. Being observant is incredibly essential while watching both mom and dad transition into their new roles. Research also shows immediate father-baby bonding offers several benefits, including a lower risk for postpartum depression.

Click here to read the full study.

Find out how you can help and counsel new moms and dads suffering postpartum depression and other mental health challenges. Learn more at Divine Mercy University.