The arrival of a new baby can be one of the most exciting, joyful moments in any parent's life. After months of anticipation, the waiting is over. You finally meet the little person who is your son or daughter.
But what is supposed to be a blissful time can instead be difficult — for mothers and fathers alike.
While the idea of postpartum (after the birth) depression in mothers is well known, many don't realize that fathers can suffer from it, too.
The latest research explains:
- About 4 percent of fathers have symptoms of depression in the first year after their baby is born.
- 21 percent of fathers will have at least one bout of depression by the time the child is 12.
- Depression is more likely among younger fathers, those with a history of depression, a family history of depression and those with less education and income.
- Up to half of the men whose partners have postpartum depression also have symptoms of depression.
The domino effect
When a mother is depressed, her condition can affect the whole family. The same is true for depressed fathers. A new dad with symptoms of depression is likely to have less ability to support his partner. Children with two depressed parents are at a significantly greater risk of not achieving developmental progress than those with one depressed parent.
What depression looks like in men
Depression is different from just feeling sad every now and then. It takes over your day-to-day life. The bad feelings are intense and don't let up.
Some of the symptoms of depression are similar for men and women. These include:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating too much or too little
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Having trouble concentrating
- Inability to control negative thoughts
Men often experience depression differently from women. They may associate it with being too emotional or weak. They are less likely to say they feel hopeless or down on themselves. For many men, their only outward sign of depression is an increased irritability.
Instead, depressed men tend to complain about feeling tired, irritable and unable to sleep. They lose interest in the things they used to enjoy. Men who are depressed may also get angry, aggressive, violent and reckless. Another frequent sign is drinking or drug use.
Depression rates for women are twice as high as those for men. But men have a higher suicide risk.
Ask for help
The time after a baby is born can be highly stressful and frustrating. There are so many new demands. You may feel overwhelmed and resentful.
Many men are reluctant to ask for help even when they need it. But it's important you pay attention to the signs of postpartum depression, and to reach out to others. Isolation adds to depression. Explain to your family and friends what you are going through. Let them support you. You may even want to consider an online support group for new fathers.
If you are feeling suicidal, call 911 immediately. You may also want to get counseling (check with your insurance company to see if it covers those services).
Created on 05/22/2009
Updated on 01/28/2013
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depression among women of reproductive age and postpartum depression.
- Letourneau N, Tryphonopoulos PD, Duffett-Leger L, et al. Support intervention needs and preferences of fathers affected by postpartum depression. Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing. 2012;26(1):69-80.
- Helpguide. Understanding depression.