While you’ve likely heard of Postpartum Depression (PPD), you may not realize the size and scope of the problem. PPD (also known as PMAD, short for Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder) impacts 15% of pregnant women and new mothers, making it difficult to care for baby and causing damage other relationships. You also may not realize that postpartum depression is not just a woman’s illness. Men can struggle with PPD-like symptoms, too. It is called Paternal Depression, and recent studies have shown that 10% of new fathers struggle with it.
How is it possible that men are affected, you may be wondering? After all, Postpartum Depression in women is linked to traumatic birth experiences, hormonal changes, thyroid problems, Vitamin D deficiencies, previous history of mental illness, and many other factors. Men don’t give birth or experience the same vitamin deficiencies that a pregnant woman does, so how is it that men can also suffer from depression after the birth of a child?
While men may not experience the full spectrum of biological and hormonal changes or other factors that impact women, they are still experiencing a major shift in their role and all the stress that goes with that. The pressure to be a good dad and partner, the desire to succeed at fatherhood, and the dramatic life change can bring on paternal depression in men. Remember, new dads experience the same lack of sleep, frustration of trying to soothe a fussy baby, and the fear of making a mistake that new moms experience.
Some of the symptoms of Paternal Depression include:
- Increased alcohol consumption
- Depressed mood
- Weight loss
- Suicidal thoughts
- Physical complaints such as stomach problems or headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
In general, men are less likely to seek help than women, namely due to the fact that it is, unfortunately, challenging for men to seek treatment. Compounding the problem is the fact that many healthcare providers do not realize that men can be impacted during this time in their life. Further, the stigma for men is greater than for women. Yet, it is so important to get help.
If you or someone you love is struggling following the birth a baby, there is hope — for both women and men.
PMAD Information & Resources
Gretchen Johnson, MSN, RN-BC, was the Mother and Baby Partial Hospitalization Clinical Services Manager and coordinator in this program’s development. She is a member of the Healthy Kent 2020 Perinatal Mood Disorder Coalition, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, and the Psychiatric Nursing Council of Southwest Michigan.