Postpartum Depression in New Dads
Let's get real.
Having a baby is as difficult as it is wonderful. That first day with your newborn is a day that every new father will remember. For many people, those moments will be the most fulfilling of their life. It’s the end of a long journey that brought them to this moment, and the beginning of a new adventure. It’s life-changing.
For so many new fathers, those first few moments are a hallway between eras of their lives. But, everything leading up to and immediately after those first few moments can be difficult to handle emotionally. Depression, especially postpartum depression, is a very real thing for men.
As a matter of fact, it’s a fairly common thing. While most people immediately jump to the mother when they think of postpartum depression, it affects more than 1 in 4 men as well. And the effects of postpartum depression on men can be even more negative for the child.
As we all know, your emotions can play a huge part in your performance. Whether it’s at work, on a basketball court, or at home, it’s just as important that we’re emotionally healthy as it is that we’re physically healthy. But we all need a reminder of that sometimes.
The Effects of Postpartum Depression
Depression tends to look a bit different in men. If you’ve suffered from depression in the past, you might already know this. The narrative of depression is so different from reality that it’s important to reiterate, though.
Depression doesn’t always show itself as oversleeping, emotional fragility, or crying all the time. As a matter of fact, crying can often be a sign of emotional health. Instead, depression in men tends to show itself more as frustration and anger. Less tears and more curse words.
Men who are suffering from postpartum depression usually become irritable, and quick to fly off the handle. Sometimes they become more impulsive, and likely to make self-destructive choices. You might also find yourself unable to enjoy the things you used to enjoy. If the gym just doesn’t feel the same anymore, that might be depression.
Postpartum depression especially is earmarked by a sense of distance or directed anger towards either your child or their mother. You might find that it’s easy to get pissed off about just about anything that happens with one or both of them. Some men report having thoughts of harming them, of not loving them, or of wanting to walk away from the situation.
Men with postpartum depression are also less likely to take their place as a caretaker. For example, men with postpartum depression won’t read to their child or find the time to play catch. Generally, the desire to spend time with them will be lessened. This is where postpartum depression begins to affect the child.
Postpartum depression can seriously harm our ability to perform as fathers, and to enjoy our time with our child. It can begin as late as 3 weeks after the birth of the baby, and will only worsen if it goes unchecked.
How Do I Know If I Have Postpartum Depression?
If you are feeling irritable or unable to enjoy the things you used to enjoy, you might have postpartum depression. It’s as simple as that: if you’re feeling a dissonance between the man you’re being and the man you know you are, something is wrong. You can’t diagnose the problem by yourself, but you can make the decision to get help.
You might also be suffering from postpartum depression if you find yourself having a hard time developing an attachment to your baby. If you aren’t immediately head over heels, then you should likely talk to someone about it.
In addition to those feelings, you can get a sense ahead of time if you might struggle with postpartum depression. You might be at risk if you’ve had a previous issue with depression or other disorders or if you’re under a lot of financial or life stress otherwise. If you didn’t grow up with positive male role models or don’t have people around you that you trust emotionally, you should also be wary of postpartum depression.
Handling Postpartum Depression
The only way to handle postpartum depression is to talk to someone about it. If the feelings aren’t overwhelming, you might be able to work through them with your own parents, or your close friends, or your partner.
If they’re difficult or you don’t feel like you have anyone to turn to, you should speak to a therapist. You can go to a therapist preemptively if you fear you’re at risk, or you can go just to see if you are suffering from postpartum depression in the first place.
It’s important that you know these issues are real, and that you don’t need to feel ashamed about these feelings. As we’re beginning to see from athletes and other celebrities, many men have suffered from mental health issues at some point in their life. And many more men are learning to own those feelings, and to win the fight with them.
If you’re worried about postpartum depression, I strongly advise you to seek help. Tell your partner, tell a friend, or tell a therapist. Tell someone, because you deserve help. You deserve these moments of happiness, and you can get on the path to overcome these issues.
Here is a great resource for those looking to get help but may not be able to afford it:
Open Path Collective - a non-profit nationwide network of mental health professionals dedicated to providing in-office mental health care—at a steeply reduced rate—to individuals, couples, children, and families in need.