Having a baby is an event that typically brings a lot of joy and excitement for couples. However, roughly 60% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD), with symptoms being either moderate or severe. Fortunately, PPD is a common health issue with much discussion and content outlining the symptoms and treatment.
What’s not commonly discussed is that new fathers can absolutely suffer from depression as well. While this depression is usually caused by stress and lack of sleep, and not hormonal shifts, the fact remains that men can and do suffer from PPD. In fact, according to the JAMA Network, roughly 10% of new fathers suffer from PPD.
Other research by APA has also shown that a “similar proportion” of new fathers experience some form of depression after childbirth. Since the frequency of depression is fairly similar between new mothers and new fathers, PPD can no longer be viewed as a woman’s issue.
Because of these recent findings, researchers are now recommending that both new mothers AND new fathers (or expectant mothers and fathers) get regular screenings for signs of depression. This is especially important in new mothers and fathers with a history of mental health issues in their own past, or in their family lineage.
Factors influencing PPD in Fathers
A study out of the Parenting Research Centre in Victoria, Australia published in the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology found that while most new fathers’ distress improved over time, a small portion of father’s experienced higher levels of distress that worsened over time. For these fathers, factors that may have contributed to their distress included:
Poor Job Quality
When new fathers experience uncertainty in work, or have workplaces that do not provide a good work-family balance by allowing paid parental leaves or flexible hours, they are more likely to experience distress.
Lack of Confidence in Parenting Abilities
The authors found that fathers who had poor beliefs about their own abilities to parent had lower mood than those who had higher levels of confidence.
Unhappy Relationship with Spouse
Fathers who felt unhappy in their relationship with their spouse were twice as likely to have high levels of distress. The authors suggest that an unhappy relationship may contribute to mental distress, but that when one partner experiences mental distress it may also contribute to marital unhappiness because of be poor communication, a lack of mutual support, and a lack of quality time.
- Soc Psychiatry Psychiatry Epidemiology (2014) 49:1961-1971 DOI 10.1007/s00127-014-0834-z
If you or a loved one are a new father that is suffering from PPD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch Deborah Hubble Smith, RCT-C. In particular, Deborah is passionate about helping new parents improve their relationship and mental health through the use of Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples.