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Daddies Get Postpartum Depression, Too

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Guest blogger Jessica Katz: After I had my baby, I suffered from the "baby blues." I felt disconnected from my baby and I even thought she was evil for a short time. I was happy whenever anyone wanted to take her and hold her.

depressed man
I was devastated that I didn't have the euphoria I'd expected to after I gave birth. Everything I had ever heard about postpartum depression talked about moms killing their babies. I was terrified, and finally confided in my husband. He thought I was being ridiculous. He told me, "Of course you love her and you're a good mom. You're just tired." I knew it was more than exhaustion, and I sought help. But it turns out I wasn't the only one suffering from this disorder. 

Research says that one in four new dads suffers from postpartum depression. Between 1,000 and 2,700 of them are diagnosed each day in the United States alone! Men generally don't experience it right after the baby is born, though. In fact, men mostly feel pride and excitement when the baby is born. They are in baby bliss -- often while the mom's hormones are bouncing off the walls and driving her crazy. 

However, between three and six months later, things begin to change. Men start getting stressed at work, sleepless nights start catching up with them and they even start feeling anxious and irritable, withdrawing from their friends and getting angry at their spouses. Their depression is just as real as the moms'. 

This happened to my husband. Around six months after the baby came, my husband started feeling isolated. His friends were no longer calling as much, and by the end of the day, I was exhausted. I barely had the energy for me, let alone the energy to be a wife -- and he was starting to feel it. He felt antsy and stuck. The changes had sunk in. Dinners got earlier and earlier, and we became ships passing in the night. He felt lonely and depressed. It was affecting every part of his life. He started feeling antsy in his job, lonely and withdrawn. His life had dramatically changed since the baby and I was no longer there for him like I used to be. 

He adored our baby, was obsessed with her. He thought she was the greatest thing he had ever known. But everything else in his life felt upside down. So he agreed to get help and talk to a therapist. I even agreed to go with him when he wanted me to. And I did. Paternal postpartum depression can affect a baby just as much as maternal depression, so it is important that people recognize it and treat it. It is a very real disorder, and it occurs twice as often as regular depression in men. 

Experts say that if a baby's mother suffered from postpartum depression, the father is more likely to be afflicted. The link may be that the depressed mom leans more on the dad, causing him to feel more of a strain. Symptoms of paternal depression include sadness, loss of interest, sleep problems, low energy, irritability, withdrawal and disengagement from the family. These symptoms are very real and can become very serious. So listen to your babydaddy if he says he's depressed. And be there to lend a helping hand.

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49 comments so far | Post a comment now
Dr. Nitpik November 20, 2010, 1:25 PM

Postpartum PSYCHOSIS is when mothers think of killing their babies, not postpartum DEPRESSION.

BillyT November 20, 2010, 4:31 PM

I dont’ know why but this post leaves me feeling off balance. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Dad or guy, I’m not sure. My wife, our family, went through a long period of darkness as a result of post natal depression affecting my wife. I think your post re-enforces the need for factual advice on what life can really be like after the baby is born. And the emphasis needs to be on the tough stuff, not the fairytale stuff. It just isn’t like the movies. BillyT

Mentally Ill November 21, 2010, 12:10 PM

Finding the right medication for my wife has proven very difficult. So far she gets little relief from her depression and horrible side effects.

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