You have probably heard about postpartum depression and are aware that this is a serious problem that can affect new moms. However, if you’re a new dad or dad-to-be, you may not know exactly what PPD looks like – or that YOU could be affected as well!
According to The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness, 1 in 5 new mothers experience symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders during the first year of parenthood. While there is still limited data about the prevalence of PPD among dads, one study says that an estimated 10% of new fathers could experience it as well.
With these numbers in mind, every man with a new baby (or one on the way) should be aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and other postpartum disorders. That way, if you or your partner exhibit any of these symptoms, you’ll both be equipped to get the help your family needs.
Here’s what you should know from postpartum health experts
Postpartum Is Real and Serious and Sufferers Need Help
It’s normal for a mom and dad to feel exhausted and maybe a little bit down in the days or weeks after giving birth. For a new moms, the “baby blues,” is usually result of the extreme hormonal changes going on in her body. US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health also shows evidence that testosterone levels in men drop during the postpartum period, which can be linked to depression (although we don’t know why this happens).
These hormonal shifts are often minor and temporary, however sometimes they can trigger serious mood changes like extreme sadness, anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness. These mood changes coupled with the extreme sleep deprivation that comes with new parenthood can cause an exacerbation of symptoms.
If you or your partner become irritable, withdrawn, or moody for longer than two weeks at a time, you may be experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders — and should seek support.
The Warning Signs Are Confusing and sometimes hard to recognize
Until recently, when celebrities started openly talking about their struggles with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression and anxiety there was a huge stigma attached to “PPD.”
Many people assumed that PPD meant that mom hated her child or wanted to harm her baby. This is rarely the case and that is why it’s important to familiarize yourself with what the symptoms of PPD actually are, including feelings of sadness or hopelessness, mood swings, crying jags, and loss of appetite. (In rare cases, a parent with PPD might express concern over hurting themselves or the baby, at which point you should contact a doctor immediately.)
If your partner talks about feeling overwhelmed, or expresses concern that she isn’t able to bond with the baby, that’s a red flag. “If mom seems like she is struggling, sit down and ask her how she is really feeling, and tell her that she is safe too speak her thoughts, no matter how difficult…” says Lisa Tremayne, Director of the Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Monmouth, NJ. Understanding and compassion is imperative, because a new mom might feel shame about how she is feeling and will be perceived as a bad mom.
BE PATIENT WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP
If your partner is visibly struggling, you probably want to do everything you possibly can to help her feel better. But that could inadvertently add even more stress to your relationship if you try too hard to get back to “romantic normalcy,” too quickly.
If your relationship is under a bit of strain, be patient and supportive. Ask your partner how you can help, although try not to get frustrated if your partner has a difficult time verbalizing exactly what she needs. This is a confusing time and emotions will ebb and flow.
You are not in charge of fixing the problem
If you suspect your partner might be struggling with extreme depression, anxiety, OCD or other extreme issues postpartum, remember this is a medical condition that requires professional attention. This is not something you can solve on your own. If you are experiencing symptoms also remember that your partner is there to support you, however support groups, therapists, centers and other medical professionals are available that are trained to deal with PMADs, so please reach out to them as this is a temporary and treatable condition.
GIVE HELP AND ASK FOR HELP
Extreme exhaustion, isolation, and lack of support are all triggers for PPD. Even if you or your partner is seeing a therapist or taking meds, the two of you will probably need to make some changes at home.
Find ways to lighten her load and work as a team. If mom is suffering, see if you can take time off work (even if it is a day or two a week) to give her a break. If you’re the one who’s struggling, and your schedule makes it harder for you to take on more, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Ask friends or family members, even if it’s just to bring over a meal or do a few loads of laundry or consider hiring a postpartum doula who can help with basic newborn care.
Be there for each other
One of the easiest things to do is to fall into the trap of devoting all of your energy to a new baby. Try to be cognizant that you don’t end up neglecting your partner, or your own mental health in the process.
You might not have the time (or energy) to go out with friends or give your partner a long massage, but you can always find a few minutes to check in and gauge her emotional barometer. Sometimes, just asking “How are you feeling,” or “Why don’t you go take some time for yourself,” can be everything.
If you struggle with postpartum depression, anxiety or other mood disorder postpartum, or if you suspect your partner might be struggling please contact the Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness. If you or your partner experiences suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK.