Dad Can Get Postpartum Depression Too

Do you think that only women are at risk for postpartum depression? If so, you may be surprised to know that one in 10 men in the United States is likely to experience depression that's related to new fatherhood, according to a meta-analysis of studies on this topic, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in May 2010.

Male Postpartum Depression: A Serious Concern

Doctors have long associated postpartum depression with the many physical and hormonal changes that women undergo throughout pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, they credit the new set of responsibilities that typically comes along with motherhood to cause some women to feel overwhelmed and have difficulty coping with their new roles.

While these facts all still hold true,  what doctors failed to recognize until recently was that the emotional part of the equation isn't limited to females. It can also extend to men as they grapple with the changing expectations that fatherhood brings, causing them, too, to suffer from their own brand of postpartum depression.

Connecting the Dots

To better understand male postpartum depression and what it really means, researchers from Eastern Virginia Medical School Department of Pediatrics examined the results of 43 existing studies that explored this phenomenon. Interestingly enough, when they compiled all of the data together into the meta-analysis that was published in JAMA, they discovered that out of a total of 28,000 male participants, about 10 percent experienced some type of depression during their partner's pregnancy or somewhere within the first year of their child's life. Furthermore, the rates of male postpartum depression were at their highest, reaching more than 25 percent, during the time period when respondents' babies were between three and six months old. This makes sense when you realize that this is about the time when infants begin to become more challenging. (To help you further understand the scope of the problem, keep in mind that male depression rates are generally in the range of between 4 and 5 percent.)

Although these findings indicate that male postpartum depression is indeed a serious concern, the rates among men are still much lower than the rates for maternal postpartum depression, which affects close to one in four women today.

Standing Up to Male Postpartum Depression

If you're expecting a new baby, or have just welcomed one into your life recently,, it's important to take the risk of prenatal and postpartum depression seriously and to recognize that it does indeed affect both sexes.

Try to understand some of the factors that may increase your risk of experiencing postpartum symptoms. For instantly, having a history of general depression, experiencing financial stress, having discord within your relationship, and feeling ill equipped to deal with the responsibilities of parenthood are all factors that can make both you and your partner more susceptible.

The good news is that you can take some simple steps to head off, or at least minimize, postpartum depression.

  • See a counselor to help you and your spouse iron out some of the challenges you're facing before and/or after the baby's birth.
  • Take a class to help you both prepare for the changing roles you'll face.
  •  If you do recognize any symptoms of depression in yourself or your mate, it's essential to see your doctor and discuss the most effective treatment strategies for your needs and situation. If left untreated, male postpartum depression can ultimately have a negative impact on the wellbeing of your growing baby.


Scientific American

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)