Postpartum depression affects fathers too


July 6, 2021 – postpartum depression It’s not just something new moms can have. It turns out that it can affect new parents, too, according to a new study.

Michael W., a 38-year-old New Jersey attorney, and his wife were excitedly planning the birth of their baby and were thrilled when it was born.

But then, “I found that parenthood a New Baby It was shockingly exhausting. I felt unprepared for the task, overwhelmed by the burden of a 24 hour schedule and a lack of asleepAnd I struggled with feelings of inferiority,” he told WebMD.

Michael never thought he had postpartum depression (PPD), possibly because the condition is more associated with women. But a new study published in American Journal of Men’s Health He points out that postpartum depression also affects men.

A team of Danish investigators led by researcher Sarah Pedersen, of the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University, conducted extensive interviews with eight parents with postpartum depression and found that their initial experiences involved feeling overwhelmed, weak or inadequate, which sometimes turned into anger and frustration.

Ultimately, all of the men interviewed for the study sought formal help from a health care provider, but six experienced depressive symptoms for several months before seeking or receiving help.

“I think one of the most important take-home messages is that GPs who work with new parents should invite parents into your consultations and involve parents as much as possible,” Pedersen tells WebMD.

She says the findings also contain a message for parents.

“I hope you’ll support each other and talk about your feelings and how you’re experiencing the transition to parenthood — know that it will take time to adjust to your new role,” she says.

Insufficient attention

There has been little focus on parents when it comes to postpartum depression, according to Pedersen.

“Over the past decade, several studies have examined the prevalence of postpartum depressive disorder in men, and there is increasing evidence that paternal postpartum depression is associated with an increased risk of negative long-term behavioral and emotional outcomes in children,” she says.

However, only three studies were based on interviews with parents who had personal experience with postpartum depression.

“The purpose of our study was, first and foremost, to explore the lived experience of parents with postpartum depression, and secondly, to gain a deeper understanding of their help-seeking behavior — barriers to seeking help and facilitators for seeking help,” Pedersen says.

The study was based on ‘semi-structured’ interviews with eight Danish parents (ages 29-38) who had postpartum depressive disorder, none of whom had a previous history of postpartum depression. depression.

All participants received a formal diagnosis of postpartum depression from a general practitioner or psychologistAnd they all sought or received Psychological health They considered themselves recovering from depression at the time of the interview.

The researchers used a technique called explanatory phenomenology to analyze the interviews.

The authors wrote that this method “aims to perform in-depth examinations of specific phenomena by examining how individuals make meaning of their life experiences.”

radical change

Five of the fathers described pregnancy as “a time of happiness filled with positive expectations about parenthood”.

But the authors wrote, “The great expectations of fathers were later replaced by the very different reality of parenthood,” noting that the transition to parenthood was, in the words of one participant, “a radical change you cannot imagine.”

Most of the parents expressed feeling overwhelmed, and three of them felt unprepared for the task, which added to their depression.

“Participants wanted to be emotionally and physically present in their children’s lives, but during their depression, these good intentions turned into feelings of guilt and inadequacy, as participants did not feel they had enough energy and mental strength to become the kind of parents they wanted to be,” the authors wrote.

Participants mentioned stressors they believed contributed to postpartum depression, including complications during a partner’s pregnancy, an unplanned cesarean delivery (three fathers), and the partner’s difficulties with Breastfeeding (Five fathers), work-related concerns. Five reported that their partners experienced postpartum emotional distress.

masculine rules

A second focus of the research has been to examine parents’ help-seeking behaviors, Pedersen says.

In the end, all participants sought formal help, either from a general practitioner or a health visitor, with two seeking help immediately after birth.

Although participants were able to recognize changes in mood and behavior at a later date, many did not consider them to be so signs of depression before being diagnosed.

Most participants had heard of postpartum depression, but primarily because it affects women. Three sought information online about paternal PPD but could not find any.

Four participants described experiencing postpartum depression as a “taboo,” based on “a mixture of false beliefs, stigma, and masculine norms,” ​​as the authors stated, where men are supposed to be “big, strong, and care about everything, and suddenly you can’t.”

The authors reported that seven participants were screened for postpartum depression or depression by a health care professional.

“Screening was an important part of the help-seeking process, as this was the first time two parents were presented with PPD,” the authors said.

Although the examination “had the potential to spark a conversation” about PPD, it was directed towards women, and some participants did not feel it was appropriate for them.

“Future research should focus on identifying educational needs about paternal postpartum depression among both parents, health care professionals, and other professionals caring for new families,” Pedersen says.

Michael W. says it would have been helpful to have someone prepare him and his wife for what to expect, or if there was some kind of screening. He also advises parents who have been waiting for a while to “get some real-world experience by spending time in a… New Baby To find out what it involves.”

Various symptoms

“We often talk about moms suffering from postpartum depressive disorder, so it’s normal for moms to ask about it or loved ones to ask moms about their physical and emotional well-being after giving birth,” Craig Garfield, MD, founder/director of Family and Child Health Innovations at Hospital Ann and Robert H. Laurie Children’s in Chicago, told WebMD.

For parents, “it’s not commonly discussed, so friends and families often don’t ask parents, and parents don’t know where to turn,” Garfield, who is also a professor of pediatrics and medical social sciences at Northwestern University, says. Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, and was not involved in the study.

He points out that the symptoms in fathers may differ from those in mothers.

“I’ve seen parents who are more anxious or moody than they used to be, or more angry, and I’ve seen parents throw themselves to work or start drinking more—all of which have been linked to changes in mood and symptoms of depression in the postpartum period,” he says.

Symptoms may last longer in men than in women. Garfield’s group published a study in which they surveyed 400 mothers and fathers of premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) about depressive symptoms around the time of NICU entry, at home, and then 30 days later at home.

Nearly one-third of the mothers screened positive for depressive symptoms around NICU admission, as did 17% of the fathers. But he says mothers’ depression scores improved after discharge and 30 days after they returned home, while fathers remained “fundamentally unchanged.”

“Furthermore, we found that if clinicians screened mothers and fathers during the NICU stay – on admission or even upon discharge – it would significantly improve their ability to predict who would still have depressive symptoms one month after back to home.”

Pedersen agrees that clinicians should incorporate PPD screening into their practices and be proactive in encouraging parents to get help.

“Keep pushing,” she advises, “Men seldom, compared to women, seek help with mental health matters.”

WebMD Health News


American Journal of Men’s Health: “I wanted to be there as a father, but I couldn’t: a qualitative study of fathers’ experiences of postpartum depression and their help-seeking behavior.”

Sarah Pedersen, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.

Craig Garfield, MD, founder/director of Family and Child Health Innovations at Ann and Robert H. Laurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago, Illinois.

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