We know that many new moms become depressed in the weeks and months after the arrival of their babies, or experience the so-called “baby blues.” Growing evidence is mounting that points to the fact that new dads also experience a similar type of postpartum depression and feel a sense of helplessness when confronted with their new parental obligations.
Men are gradually becoming less afraid to admit their feelings towards a wide range of issues, including those that our own fathers and grandfathers wouldn’t have dared discuss with others – like men’s postpartum depression.
Men’s postpartum depression is not a new phenomenon, although it is not as socially unacceptable for men to admit vulnerability as it once was. Men’s postpartum depression is similar to what women go through, as Dr. Will Courtenay pointed out in a recent interview on The Mommy-Muse Is In: Empowering Your Journey into Motherhood: “So often, parents, both mothers and fathers, expect this experience of “baby bliss” that everyone suggests parenting is going to be like. Then, suddenly, this screaming, helpless infant is in their laps and they don’t know what to do to calm this baby, soothe it, and suddenly, things start feeling a lot more difficult than they ever expected.”
For both sexes, parenthood is a life-altering event. Couples are turned into threesomes in the brief time it takes their baby to be born. Although most men report feeling satisfied with being a father, they are also clear that making this transition into fatherhood can be quite daunting. In its most severe state, men’s postpartum depression (also known as Paternal Post-Natal Depression) may necessitate new fathers seeking help from a mental health professional who is sensitive to the needs of new fathers and understands the condition. Dr. Will Courtenay offers excellent resources through www.PostPartumMen.com.
The signs of postpartum depression in new fathers are different from what we might expect in a new mom – sadness, crying, loss of interest. Men tend to have excellent skills when it comes to hiding their depression, so the best clues to a possible onset of men’s postpartum depression is looking for things that are out-of-order from their previous state, or just a feeling that something just isn’t “right.”
Men may also try to avoid parenting altogether, according to Dr. Courtenay. “I’m hearing a lot from new dads about the experience of not being able to tolerate being around the baby. They can’t stand the baby’s cries, the screaming; they say it makes them crazy. Or, they can’t stand to smell the baby, or to even see it or hold it. Typically, men feel horribly guilty about feeling that way, and also very confused because, of course, this is not what they were told to expect with the birth of their child. All they really know to do is just to try to get away from the thing that is kind of making them feel all of these things. They end up spending as much time as they can at the office.”
New moms and dads can benefit from taking steps before the birth of their new baby (or even after the birth if they sense a problem). Try out these helpful strategies:
- Accept that postpartum depression is real in both men and women. If a man has a history of depression, beginning mental health counseling before the baby’s birth is a great preventive measure.
- For couples with poor communication or relationship challenges, couples counseling during the pregnancy, as well as after can help offset depression by opening up essential lines of communication.
- Economic problems should be faced head-on with the creation of a livable budget to alleviate the stress that finances can put on the couple.
- Social support for both mom and dad is important. Decide who you can rely on if you need a sitter, someone to talk to, etc.
The most important thing for new fathers and mothers to understand when it comes to postpartum depression is that it is a completely natural condition that millions of other new parents have gone through. With appropriate treatment and counseling, parenthood will feel more natural to the both of you, and you will finally be able to relax and enjoy your new bundle of love.