Postpartum depression is one of the most suffocating and hopeless feelings in the world for a new parent. For many years it's been thought that only mothers — or rather, birth mothers specifically — could suffer from postpartum depression, or PPD. But thanks to rising discussions and studies done within the medical community, the belief that PPD is only experienced by a birth mother is waning. Many are starting to come around to the idea that all parents — gay, straight, biological, nonbiological, and adoptive — are at risk. The signs your partner has postpartum depression —even though they didn't give birth — are very similar to what a birth mother experiences, but may vary slightly.
It's pretty normal to feel stressed, tired, or even weepy right after having a baby and these feelings are often chalked up to "baby blues." According to Web MD baby blues only last a few days after childbirth and are caused by dramatic fluctuations in hormones (in birth mothers). Hormone shifts are just one part of baby blues puzzle. The new demands of a baby, a revolving door of visitors, and not getting any sleep for days on end could potentially put anyone in a bad mood, not just birth mothers.
The more serious mood issue, that is so similar to baby blues it's almost hard to discern between the two, is called postpartum depression (PPD). According to the American Psychological Association one in seven mothers experience PPD with symptoms that include: crying, anger, mood swings, panic attacks, inability to bond with the baby, fatigue, and in some cases, psychosis, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming the baby. PPD is typically diagnosed anytime within the first year of life after a child is born and only in birth mothers, but that may be changing as more doctors hear from the parents that didn't physically birth the baby. A 2014 study in Pediatric, found that mothers aren't the only ones who experience these PPD symptoms. The study discovered that paternal depression rates were between five and 10 percent in new fathers. Unfortunately, PPD data for same sex and adoptive parents hasn't been studied exhaustively or released yet, but one can assume with the paternal PPD rates that anyone can get PPD, even if they didn't physically birth the child.
Even though the research lags in parental PPD across the changing landscape of marriage and parenting in this country, there are some symptoms and signs to watch out for. Here are nine signs your partner might be suffering from PPD.
1. They Express An Increase In Anger
Depression, even postnatal, knows no gender. But it does manifest itself differently across gender lines. According to the mental health website Help Guide, men don't recognize their depressed feelings as much as woman and they may exhibit more so-called "stealth" symptoms like anger. In regards to paternal PPD, the site explained that the increase in anger could range from a slight uptick in irritability, sensitivity to criticism, or loss in sense of humor, to a short temper, road rage, and even violence. Scary to think about, but the site mentioned that men suffering from depression could get controlling or even abusive towards their partner.
2. They Are Sad Or Crying A Lot
Sadness in depressed people is something they get over in a few days. As Postpartum Progress website explained the type of sadness that is indicative of PPD or any depression really is a very deep despair. Often the depressed person is crying without even knowing why and they can't stop.
3. They Have A Lot Of Anxiety
If your partner is feeling super panicky, scared, or unreasonably worried this might be an indication that something is wrong. The same Postpartum Progress website mentioned above explained that depression and anxiety tend to go hand in hand. If your partner simply cannot relax at all this might be a red flag that they are suffering from PPD.
4. They Harbor Feelings Of Worthlessness
According to a 2012 comprehensive report that reviewed studies on PPD and men at the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, it was found that fathers who suffer from PPD often feel worthless, excessive or inappropriate guilt, feelings of being overwhelmed and undue self-blame.
For women suffering from PPD, it's thought they experience worthlessness in regards to their appearance and self-confidence, according to a different post on the Postpartum Progress website.
5. They Stay Away From You And Baby
This is a form of isolating during arguably one of the most important bonding experiences a family can have. According to Web MD if your partner is starting to isolate themselves, avoiding contact with loved ones (including you and the baby), or withdrawing from friends, this may be a sign that they are having a hard time and need to get some help.
6. They Spend More Time At Work
A person that suddenly spends significantly more time at work (who hasn't opened a new business or something) is obviously avoiding what is waiting at home for them. A study published in Psychiatry found that men suffering from PPD increased the time at work as a way to deal with their crushing feelings of failure, inadequacy, or worthlessness in their professional and home environments.
7. They Lose or Gain Weight
It's been thought for many years that PPD only effects birth mothers because of the markedly huge fluctuations in hormones during pregnancy and after childbirth, but women aren't the only ones that experience a shift apparently. According to an article in Parents, men's hormones also shift during pregnancy and after birth for reasons that are unknown. It was reported that testosterone levels drop; and estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol go up. Some men experience nausea and weight gain.
Of course, again here, weight loss and weight gain are symptoms of depression. According to Everyday Health, depression messes up the appetite control center in a depressed person's body and basically it could go either way.
8. They Engage In Substance Abuse Or Reckless Behaviors
According to the same Help Guide website mentioned above, a man dealing with depression may exhibit escapist behavior as it's dubbed, or risky behavior. Risky acts may include pursuing dangerous sports suddenly, driving recklessly, infidelity, drugs, alcohol, or gambling.
9. They Admit Suicidal Thoughts
Experiencing suicidal thoughts is not gender specific, however the Help Guide website noted that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. If your partner, man or woman, admits thoughts of suicide or harming the baby you need to call for help immediately.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and it's available 24 hours every, single day. You can also use their live chat function on their website at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
PPD is not limited to birth mothers and the more awareness that exists around this issue, the more people can help parents coming from all walks of new parenthood.