Dads Can Get Depression Post-Baby, Too

In the last decade, much progress has been made to bring maternal postpartum mood disorders further into the light, but what about paternal disorders?

On average, 10% of new fathers experience paternal postnatal depression (PPND), though some studies show that number reaches up to 25%. The stats vary widely, because research on paternal disorders is still relatively new, but the fact is: fathers definitely suffer from it, and it often goes unnoticed.

So while Dad is watching out for you, be sure you’re watching out for him, too.

Factors contributing to PPND are similar to what affects moms—hormone fluctuations (decreased testosterone and cortisol and increased estrogen and prolactin), sleep deprivation and lifestyle challenges. But there are also factors more specific to men: stress over increased finances, reduced/nonexistent sex life, loss of freedom, and worries about being a good father and partner. Also, studies show that men who have a history of mood disorders or a partner suffering from a postpartum mood disorder are more likely to develop PPND.

The symptoms of PPND don’t necessarily manifest in the way it does for women, and men are less likely to communicate how they’re feeling, which means they’re less likely to seek help. So if your partner is suddenly burying himself in his work or behaving out-of-the-ordinary, it may be cause for concern.

Some signs of PPND

  • Depression/anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia/hypersomnia
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Irritability
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggressive, violent behavior
  • Substance abuse

If you’re concerned that your spouse may be suffering from PPND, communicate your observations and that getting help as soon as possible is imperative—for him and your whole family. At Boot Camp, we encourage parents to have open and honest discussions before your baby is born, to know the signs and agree that should either of you feel it’s time to seek professional support, that you will go—even if you don’t recognize the signs in yourself.  

No one should have to suffer through debilitating feelings, and being mentally strong will allow him to be the dad and partner he desires—and deserves—to be. 

Although it’s a very serious—and sometimes life-threatening—condition, with proper treatment and support, men can fully recover from PPND. Getting help can save a man’s life—or his marriage. And if a father can’t do it for himself, he should get help for the well-being of his child. Men need to recognize that depression is a medical condition – it’s not a weakness of character. For a man to admit he’s depressed isn’t unmanly or admitting defeat. It’s taking charge of his life.
— Will Courtenay, PhD, LCSW
Father, Therapist & Author