Fathers also go through postpartum depression

Fathers also go through postpartum depression

By Kristelle Bechayda

Did you know that that the signs of postpartum depression found in new mothers can also be projected by fathers? According to a British study, these signs are often mistaken for something else or missed entirely in fathers.

The researchers added that there should be a greater awareness that the mental health disorder can occur in either parent for up to a year after the child’s birth.

According to Mark Williams, founder of UK-based charity Fathers Reaching Out which promotes mental health awareness, new fathers can also struggle with anxiety, depression and traumas, and have difficulty bonding with their babies, just like new mothers.

Research and results

In fact, a previously published research reveals that one in four fathers experience postpartum depression within three to six months after their child was born.

The inspiration behind the study came after study leader Viren Swami was diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of his son.

“Once I was diagnosed, I wanted to do more research into it and find out why so many people, like myself, think that men can’t get postnatal depression,” said Swami, who is a social psychology professor at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK.

Recruiting 406 volunteers between ages 18 to 70, Swami and his colleagues had them all read two accounts describing almost identical situations where the subjects, a man and a woman, both suffered from postpartum depression.

They were initially asked if they thought something was wrong with the subjects. 97 percent of them responded ‘yes’ for the account of the woman, while 79.5 percent said ‘yes’ for the male.

Next, participants were asked what they thought was wrong. In the case of the mother, 90.1 percent correctly listed postpartum depression, postnatal depression or depression, while only 46.4 percent did so for the father.

Answers listing ‘baby blues’ as the reason were scored as incorrect because this kind of short-lived mood swing is different from postnatal or postpartum depression and usually resolves within a week after birth, Swami and his team write in the Journal of Mental Health.

For the woman, a clear majority of 92.9 percent said depression was the problem.

Among those who did feel something was off with the man in the case study, 61 percent correctly thought it could be some form of depression. But 20.8 percent thought the father’s symptoms could be stress, 11 percent responded with tiredness and stress, and a few others said it could be anxiety, feeling neglected or “baby blues.”

Realizations and what should be done

The invisibility of their depression may force fathers to cope on their own instead of seeking professional help, the research team says.

One shortcoming of the study is that participants were recruited online, so they may not represent all adults, the researchers note.

“Because many people do not realize that men can get PND (postnatal depression), it is easier minimize the symptoms, the severity of PND, or the need to reach out and seek help,” said Brandon Eddy, an assistant professor from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who was not involved in the study.

But some of the new results are encouraging, he said.

“Although a much higher percentage of respondents recognized PND in women, there was still a substantial amount that recognized PND in father,” Eddy said via email.

“There are many fathers out there who suffer from PND who think they are alone and nobody sees their suffering. More people are beginning to recognize that paternal PND is real,” he added.

Previous research has shown that educational programs about maternal postnatal depression can improve awareness of the disease, the researchers wrote.

“Similarly rigorous programs to support new fathers and raise awareness of paternal postnatal depression are now urgently required,” they said.

Story from Reuters.