It's no secret that the strain of new parenthood can be completely overwhelming. As mental health slowly becomes a field that is less taboo, the complexities of the "baby blues" and postpartum depression (PPD) are talked about more. Society has become more aware of the hormonal and lifestyle changes that women undergo during pregnancy and post-delivery, and how that contributes to their mental health status in the years to follow, but, not much has been said about partners and co-parents during this same time. So, can your partner get PPD? The answer might surprise you.
In an interview with Romper, Dr. Fares Diarbakerli, M.D., FACOG (Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists) of New Jersey mentions that both mothers and fathers can get PPD. For first-time parents, having a newborn can be overwhelming and stressful, as nothing can really prepare you for it.
According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, depression scores increased by 68 percent among new fathers during the first five years of their child's life. In fact, about one in four new dads go through some sort of depression after their child is born. This amounts to about 3000 new dads a day who are struggling with new parenthood.
So why the increase? As Fit Pregnancy mentioned, it's common knowledge that women experience extreme hormonal changes throughout pregnancy and after delivery. But, did you know that men experience hormonal changes, as well?
According to Fit Pregnancy, testosterone levels fall in men, while estrogen levels rise at the same time. This makes men predisposed to depression and its symptoms at about the time baby arrives. Combining these hormonal changes with the neurochemical changes that occur with sleep deprivation creates a perfect storm for depression, particularly in the first three to six months of baby's life.
And, as Gabrielle Mauren, Ph.D., L.P., notes in an interview with Romper, if a mom has PPD, then her partner has a 40 percent chance of being depressed, too. Having a baby is a major life change, Mauren mentions, and anytime our lives are thrown up in the air by something new, our mental health can be affected. A baby brings a lot of adjustment to a parent’s routines and relationships. "Everyday," she says, "I see moms and dads who feel overwhelmed by all those shifts, even though on another level, they’re thrilled to be a parent."
PPD among new dads isn’t as common as it is in birthing mothers though, remarks doula Sarah Winward of Your Downtown Doula in Toronto. Symptoms can be similar to those of the mother, or alternatively, they can look quite different. Symptoms of PPD in new fathers, Winward tells Romper, may include increased irritability, aggressive behaviors, or impulsiveness. Other signs can include social isolation and a loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed.
If you are experiencing these things, or you suspect that your partner might be, it is important to seek help by speaking to your healthcare provider. Too often, partners are thought to be the "strong" one during the postpartum period, but they're going through a lot of changes, too. Keep your communication open and encourage your partner to reach out if they need to.