It certainly is! The birth of a child brings about drastic changes in the life of fathers, too. And their mental well-being can get affected resulting in paternal postpartum depression (PPD).
Postpartum depression is generally associated with mothers and a lot of research has been done in this area. Hence there is qualitative data and findings to support it. However, it is a phenomenon that is experienced by men, too. Read on to know more about it.
At the root of it
Men might start getting signs of paternal postpartum depression (PPD) during the antenatal stage and this can continue in the post-natal phase. Studies have shown that 2% – 25% new fathers get affected by this and the chances are higher if the mother is also suffering from it. Postpartum depression is related to the many changes that take place in one’s life and lifestyle after the baby is born or in anticipation of birth. Being a new parent can be challenging. It all boils down to how equipped you are mentally to face these changes.
Some of the key triggers for PPD are:
1. Lack of social support from family and friends
2. Financial or work-related stress
3. Challenges in getting attached to the baby
4. Postpartum depression in the mother
5. Lack of intimacy with the partner
6. Hormonal imbalance (testosterone, estrogen, etc)
7. Fatherhood at a young age
New fathers should be on high alert if they have a personal experience or family history of depression. Start looking for early signs of PPD and watch out for the above triggers, too.
Symptoms of PPD
Unlike women, men are not voluble about their feelings. They either think these disturbing feelings will dissolve over time or feel it is unmanly to harbour such thoughts. In any case, they will not speak up or discuss it with anyone leading to bottling up of emotions. These emotions will find a vent through other means such as anger, frustration, violence, foul language, impulsive and irritable behaviour, lack of enthusiasm, etc. In some cases, new fathers might even discourage their wives from breast pumping or breastfeeding the baby.
Here are a few more psycho-physical symptoms that men can display because of PPD:
1. Lethargy or listlessness
2. Constantly feeling sad or the urge to cry
3. Obsessing over minute details especially related to the baby
4. Stress eating
5. Sudden gain or loss of weight
6. Trouble sleeping (can include nightmares)
7. Rise in new physical ailments
8. Panic attacks
9. Thoughts of harming the baby
10. Suicidal thoughts
These symptoms can give rise to severe issues if not addressed or diagnosed at an early stage.
Preparing ahead of time
It is a good idea for both the husband and wife to prepare for the arrival of the baby – financially and mentally. Here’s what you can do:
1. Prepare a checklist of responsibilities
2. Plan for the additional expenses in advance
3. Talk to each other about your feelings
4. Schedule time for each other
5. Indulge in a sport or hobby
6. Decide upon activities to improve father-baby bonding
As you recognize the symptoms of PPD in you, you might want to make some changes at home to help you cope with it. We have prepared a to-do list for you to help deal with PPD.
1. Communicate: Don’t isolate yourself or withdraw within yourself. Talk to your partner or family member or friend. Be in touch with your emotions and don’t be embarrassed to discuss the same with someone.
2. Don’t be a perfectionist: Trying to be perfect at parenting can cause unnecessary stress on your mental well-being. Set realistic goals and don’t berate yourself if you are failing to do some tasks.
3. Take a break: Take some ‘me’ time off. Even if it means stepping out for a cup of coffee.
4. Be physically fit: Work on your body and have a physical fitness routine.
5. Work-life balance: Being a father can be a full time job so it is important to balance your home and work life. Prioritise your work so that you have ample time to spend with your newborn.
Getting professional help
The PPD symptoms can show after a few weeks of birth and can continue for a long period of time, if not treated on time. If making relevant changes in your lifestyle is not giving appropriate results, consider seeking professional help.
A screening test will help you identify PPD and treat it at the earliest. Ignoring the symptoms will only aggravate the matters not only for you but also for your partner and the baby. PPD might intensify the mother’s postpartum depression or lead to an unhealthy relationship with your other children. It will hinder the bonding process with the newborn, too. PPD can appear even after a few months of birth, so be alert about your mental health at all times. If you observe any symptoms of PPD, talk to your family and consult a mental health expert immediately.