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Lucky for MOMs, the talk and support provided has increased significantly for women in the unlovely realm of postpartum depression. Unfortunately, postpartum depression can effect the male population as well, and so far it isn’t touched on much.
Postpartum depression is not the ‘baby blues.’ It’s a severe depression marked by feelings of sadness or emptiness, withdrawal from family and friends, a strong sense of failure, detachment, and even thoughts of suicide. It is becoming more and more recognizable by society as a whole as it relates to new mothers, but a large number of new mother’s partners are finding themselves pulled under the dark cloud as well. “Depression suffered by either parent is hard on families,”says Amanda Edwards-Stewart, Ph.D. Private Practice. “When a member experiences depression, it means they withdraw from their life and have little enjoyment in anything.”
A recent study found that one in ten new dads met the criteria for moderate to severe postpartum depression. When you factor in that roughly four million babies are born in one year in the US (United States Census Bureau) that figure of the daddy blues takes on a whole new weight.
Like women, the symptoms can begin from two to three weeks after the birth of the baby and last up to a year or longer if left untreated. Although the onset of the symptoms is similar, there are differences in how each sex is affected. A postpartum woman is often sad or withdrawn, but a man is more likely to be irritable, aggressive and maybe even hostile in behavior.
The unfortunate reality behind postpartum depression in men is that fathers are even more unlikely to seek help. Amanda says that gender stereotypes could be a contributing factor to this as well as fathers need to appear strong. Men often carry the weight of the family on their shoulders and feel it is their duty to support and take care of the unit on their own, a hefty burden for anyone to bear.
“Interesting research on parents who are depressed and their children have shown that parents who are depressed with small children are less able to connect with that child because they can’t ‘mirror’ and respond to the child as they might be able to when not depressed.” Says Stewart-Edwards “They don’t notice or smile in response to the child’s smile or stop something the child doesn’t like. This does impact their development, so it is always good to get treated.”
She says that Fathers face the same burdens new mother’s do, very little sleep, stress and worry. Not to mention the change in their relationship and sexual relationship, less time together as a couple and less free time, all of which can be an overwhelming contributing factor. It is coming to light that you don’t have to give birth to a child to feel the major life changes having one can bring.
Amanda says, “It is very important to understand that things will be different for a while and neither of you are going to feel like life is great for a time, but make sure to try and stay engaged with one another and if one or both of you are suffering from depression, get treated.”
How do you know if you or your partner is feeling the weight of postpartum depression? Amanda says to look for signs like disengagement with others, not enjoying things you once did, feeling hopeless or worthless, sleeping very little or more than usual, eating very little or more than usual or a lack of energy. Any or all of these signs are warnings to speak up and get help.
Talk to a doctor, counselor, or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment. Dad’s happiness, MOM’s happiness and even baby’s happiness can benefit from it.
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