For many people, the term “postpartum depression” conjures up images of new mothers struggling to cope with the challenges of caring for a newborn. But what about fathers and non-pregnant partners? Can they get postpartum depression, too?
What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that can affect new parents in the months following their child’s birth. While it’s normal for new parents to feel some level of anxiety and stress during this period, those who develop PPD will experience more severe symptoms that interfere with their ability to function on a day-to-day basis or even care for the baby. These symptoms can include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities that used to bring them joy
- Irritability or anger
- Constantly feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty bonding or caring for the baby
- Difficulty sleeping (or sleeping too much)
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Fatigue, lethargy, and loss of motivation
- Suicidal ideation
Postpartum Depression in Men/Non-Pregnant Partners
It’s a well-known fact that pregnant women and new mothers are at high risk for developing postpartum depression. Not to be confused with the baby blues (which is a milder and short-lived form of mood disturbance that affects up to 85 percent of new moms), PPD is a debilitating condition that interferes with the mother’s ability to care for her baby and perform other daily activities. Studies show that up to 15 percent of adult mothers will develop PPD after childbirth.
Surprisingly, postpartum depression is also a common occurrence in men and non-pregnant partners. According to one study, 4.3 percent of fathers experience PPD symptoms after the birth of their child.
This is often attributed to factors such as sleep deprivation, the stress of caring for a new baby, and the added pressure of providing emotional and psychological support to the mother, among other things.
How Can Men/Non-Pregnant Partners Get Help?
Postpartum depression is not a chronic illness and often goes away after a few months. But for some people – without proper treatment – the condition can evolve into chronic depression. Unfortunately, due to the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, men and non-pregnant partners with PPD are often reluctant to seek help.
But the truth is, like any other mental illness, PPD can affect anyone, and there is no shame in asking for help. If you or your partner are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for assistance. Some common treatments include:
- Antidepressant medication
- Support groups
- Lifestyle changes (e.g., exercise, proper sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, healthy diet)
The Bottom Line
While postpartum depression is most commonly associated with new mothers, it’s important to remember that fathers and non-pregnant partners can also be affected by this condition.
If you or your partner is experiencing any symptoms of PPD, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. With proper treatment, it is possible to manage the condition and enjoy the adventure that is parenthood.