Male postpartum depression: what causes it?

Once upon a time, the baby blues were attributed to mothers only. More recently evidence for male postpartum depression has mounted rapidly.

While nobody will assert that new dads face the same onslaught of hormonal or physical changes as new moms, they do encounter other challenges. To understand male postpartum depression better, it’s worth examining what it is and the current evidence to support it.

What is male postpartum depression?

Like female postpartum depression, these depressive periods occur in the first year following a child’s birth. While the idea that it exists may have seemed laudable, it does make sense.

Having a baby is generally a positive change. However, positive changes have the power to induce depression just as negative ones do. Additionally, many of the lifestyle changes that come with being a parent are risk factors for depression too. For example, reduced socializing, lack of sleep, and the constant worry of caring for a new person. Men who have seen their partners go through a traumatic birth may also feel associated guilt.

According to Psycom, male postpartum depression comes with a different range of symptoms to classic PPD. Men may express their depression through anger and frustration. If the new mom is also suffering, this can make life as new parents very challenging indeed.

As for the evidence, there’s plenty. According to one study, 10% of new dads will suffer from male postpartum depression. It’s most likely to occur when the baby is between three and six months old. Between 1.25% and 25.5% of men whose partners aren’t suffering from PPD are likely to develop the condition. In contrast, 24 to 50% of men whose partners are suffering from it are at risk.

How else is it different to PPD?

It’s a good idea to think of classic (or female) PPD as arising from everything listed above. But, you then need to throw in significant hormone changes and physically recovering from birth. Women who experience traumatic births that come with blood loss and surgical interventions may also experience symptoms of PTSD. Additionally, depending on childcare and feeding arrangements, social isolation from not being in work and breastfeeding have a significant impact too.

Although the two conditions are different in some senses, it’s important to not see them as being mutually exclusive. Male postpartum depression can exist at the same time as female cases. There’s no competition in terms of who’s suffering the most or who has the most legitimate case for feeling depressed. For couples to legitimately support one another, such race to the bottom attitudes must be abandoned in favor of seeking support.

How can couples work through PPD?

The first step for either member of the couple is to recognize the other person’s condition as being real. Both female and male postpartum depression have the potential to become much worse when they’re not taken seriously. When a person feels heard, they’re more likely to seek support.

Afterward, it’s a good idea to seek support using the following techniques:

  • Seek support from specific forums, such as Postpartum Men.
  • Consider talking therapies, either alone or as a couple.
  • When friends and family offer help during exhausting periods accept them.
  • Attempt to catch up on sleep wherever possible.
  • Discuss the matter with a medical professional with the aim of receiving medical support.

With an open and honest approach to both female and male postpartum depression, tackling them could become easier.

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About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.