Although a baby is a great treasure, no one can deny the exhaustion and the overwhelming feeling new parents have—dads included! While postpartum depression (or PPD) in women is widely talked about, it’s sadly still a taboo in men. Why would they encounter PPD, right? They didn’t give birth. But PPD in new dads is very real and also just as significant. In a world where men are expected to be tough, it’s not surprising that new dads may not realize they’re suffering from PPD.
Although men don’t go through the same physical changes women do, they also experience hormonal imbalances, exhaustion, and overwhelming emotions as new dads. And not all dads are comfortable talking things out. While you should always consult your a licensed mental health professional for issues like this, this list of common behavioral changes in new dads can help you know what you can look out for at home and how you can help.
Are you fighting more often because he easily gets angry or stressed? Does he always seem frustrated and irritable? Are you starting to hear stories of him having conflicts with friends or workmates? Does he result to violent behavior during arguments?
In the same way that society has a set of expectations for women, men are brought up with the expectation to provide well for their family. Dads have a natural desire to give the best to their family–to be their very own superhero, “the family’s protector and provider.” To do this, they need to be great at everything both at home and at work. But when these desires do not align with their reality, it may cause them to feel burdened, stressed, and therefore easily frustrated and angered.
Women are more comfortable being vulnerable. We’re more likely to cry in front of our friends and be open about our struggles. It’s also easier for us to have a support system of fellow moms who love to share their own stories. With men, the opposite is true, as they are often brought up to hide their emotions. Men were told that they shouldn’t cry or show weakness. Because of this, they may cope with stress by resorting to anger, indulging carelessly, or by distancing themselves from their loved ones.
Men may not go through the same changes in their body as women do during pregnancy and after giving birth, but men also (albeit unexplainably) experience a shift in their hormones which can cause them to lose or gain weight. Dr. Will Courtenay, PhD, LCSW, also known as “The Men’s Doc” explained that, “Evolutionary biologists suspect that the hormone fluctuation is nature’s way of making sure that fathers stick around and bond with their baby. Pairing those hormone fluctuations with the neurochemical changes that occur in the brain as a result of sleep deprivation can create the perfect storm (for depression) that we see peak in the 3- to 6-month period after birth.”
The scars, the saggy boobs, the baby weight–it’s easy for women to feel insecure after giving birth, and it doesn’t help if husbands seem to lose interest in their relationship with their wives and become unmotivated about things they used to feel a lot of passion for. More often than not, however, this lack of interest and loss of motivation aren’t results of the changes in your body or behavior but from the lack of sleep and the increases in exhaustion and stress that they feel due to the burden of their new responsibilities.
With the birth of a child, men also experience physical exhaustion and even get the feeling that they’ve lost their identity. In addition, when their goals for their family don’t seem to take place, they may feel like they’re not enough.
In the same way that women feel like bad moms when they can’t do things like breastfeed properly right away, dads feel helpless and useless when they can’t provide. In addition, the feeling of helplessness and uselessness are further aggravated in men when their wives are also depressed, leading them to think they are not being good husbands.
Studies show that talking is an effective way to treat depression, including proper medication. Aside from getting help from an expert or licensed mental health professional, do check on your husbands too. Encourage him to open up to you and listen without judgment. Make time to pause and talk about how you guys are feeling, to acknowledge struggles as well as victories, and to work on solutions to problems together. Help your husband create a support system for himself, starting with you.
And never be afraid to ask for help! You and your husband may be dealing with an issue that you don’t know 100% about. So consulting a mental health professional will ensure that both of you have the expert help you need to get through this tough time.
Ultimately, it’s also important to remember that, before your kids, you guys were husband and wife first. So don’t forget to make each other feel loved and cared for. Your baby is not the only one who deserves to be showered with your time, attention, and affection–do the same thing for your husband! You and your husband are in this family thing together, playing vital roles in building your home and creating a happy family. So, be there for each other, make sure to thank him for how hard he works, and make time with him a priority!
MacMillan, Amanda. “Men Get Postpartum Depression Too.” Time. Time.
Preidt, Robert. “New Dads Can Get the Baby Blues, Too.” WebMD. WebMD.
Rosen, Margery D, and Diana Kelly. “Science Says Men Suffer from Postpartum Depression, Too.” Parents.
“Signs of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety in Men.” Pacific Post Partum Support Society.