Dads Can Get Depression Post-Baby, Too

In the last decade, much progress has been made to bring maternal postpartum mood disorders further into the light, but what about paternal disorders?

On average, 10% of new dads experience paternal postnatal depression (PPND), though some studies show that number reaches up to 25%. The stats vary widely, because research on paternal disorders is still relatively new, but fathers can definitely suffer from it, and it often goes unnoticed.

Factors contributing to PPND are similar to those that affect women—hormone fluctuations (decreased testosterone and cortisol; increased estrogen and prolactin), sleep deprivation and lifestyle challenges. But there are also factors more specific to men: stress over increased finances, reduced/nonexistent sex life, loss of freedom, and worries about being a good dad and partner. Studies also show that men with a history of mood disorders are more likely to develop PPND.

The symptoms don’t necessarily manifest in the same way they do for women, and men are less likely to communicate how they’re feeling, which means less likely to seek help. So if your partner is suddenly burying himself in his work or behaving out-of-the-ordinary, it may be cause for concern.

Some signs of PPND

  • Depression/anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Insomnia/hypersomnia

  • Weight loss/gain

  • Loss of interest in activities

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Irritability

  • Impulsivity

  • Aggressive, violent behavior

  • Substance abuse

If you’re concerned that your spouse may be suffering from PPND, let him know your observations and express that getting help ASAP is imperative—for him and your whole family. At Boot Camp, we encourage parents to talk about this topic before your baby is born, know the signs, and agree to seek professional support if either of you recognize the sign. No one should have to suffer in silence, and being mentally strong will allow your partner to feel and do his best.

Although it’s a very serious—and sometimes life-threatening—condition, with proper treatment and support, men can fully recover from PPND. Getting help can save a man’s life—or his marriage. And if a father can’t do it for himself, he should get help for the well-being of his child. Men need to recognize that depression is a medical condition – it’s not a weakness of character. For a man to admit he’s depressed isn’t unmanly or admitting defeat. It’s taking charge of his life.
— Will Courtenay, PhD, LCSW
Father, Therapist & Author