When a newborn baby is first brought home, let’s face it – the household is in chaos. Schedules change to accommodate the infant’s schedule, and many sleepless nights lay ahead for both Mom and Dad.
Personalities can change during this time period, too. This is pretty much common knowledge, but the stress felt by both parents can take a toll on their behaviors towards one another, and towards the child as well.
Unfortunately, sometimes that stress isn’t just stress – it is postpartum depression, a serious condition.
Although it has been studied extensively in women, new study results are exposing the fact that men are susceptible to this depression as well, and may require similar acknowledgment, research, and treatment to recover, just like women.
Few Studies Available
Before now, there have not been many studies on the effects of postpartum depression in men.
So, to begin this current project, researchers first conducted a meta-analysis on the few existent studies to check for similarities in the results.
Their findings are compiled from 43 studies that had a combined total of over 28,000 participants, all recently new fathers over 18 years old.
All the studies that qualified had checked on the father’s condition frequently: from 3 months before birth to birth, when the child was 1-3 months, then 3-6 months, then 6-9 months, and finally, one year after the baby’s birth, providing plenty of data to compare.
Surprisingly, symptoms that qualified as depression were found in about 10% of men immediately following their child’s birth.
This figure skyrocketed during the 3-6 month period, where 26% of men were diagnosed with postpartum depression, making that the most likely time for the depression to emerge.
Why 3-6 Months?
In the United States, (which showed postpartum depression rates in men at 14% while international rates showed only 8%) the typical maternity leave is three months. When Mom returns to work, her schedule becomes increasingly busy. Depending on her husband to take on more responsibilities may increase his stress levels.
Also, children tend to cry the most during the 3-6 month age. Men, by their nature, seek to solve problems. If a child cannot be consoled quickly, there is a chance that the entire situation may dissolve into anxiety, anger, and frustration on the man’s behalf.
Symptoms of Post-Partum Disorder in Men: Take Notice!
For most women, postpartum depression often manifests itself in the form of crying, feeling withdrawn, and extreme sadness and sensitivity.
For men, postpartum depression is less about sadness and more about anger, extreme irritability, and the desire to withdraw from family and friends.
Reckless behaviors, such as wanting to make an over-the-top purchase (hello, new Harley!) or go on an extravagant trip (without his wife and new child) may also be signs of an impending problem.
The Take Home
Perhaps most important to realize, the study shows that the most common reason a man may suffer from postpartum depression is because his spouse does, too.
James Paulson, who led this study that was published in May 2010’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, has suggested that postpartum depression can be contagious:
“Depression in one partner has a cascading effect throughout the entire family unit,” he noted, and furthermore, he suggests that treatment is suggested not only for the mother, but both parents as well, as soon as symptoms are noticed.
Sources: Paulson, James F., and Sharnail D. Bazemore. “Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Fathers and Its Association With Maternal Depression.”(May 2010) Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 303, No. 19: 1961-1969.