Could New Dads be at Risk for Postpartum Depression?

Women are finally starting to be open about postpartum depression and its impact on them. But could the "baby blues" affect new dads, too?

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When it comes to postpartum depression, we're quick to blame hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, extreme changes within the body, and the intense, sometimes lingering pain of childbirth for the issue—and by that measure, it's easy for us to believe that postpartum depression can only affect a woman who has given birth.

But according to researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center, new fathers are at risk for postpartum depression too.

Dads may not go through the same physical ordeal as mothers do—sure, they might gain weight alongside their pregnant partners, experience sympathy contractions and even feel completely deprived of that unexplainable sensation of feeling your baby's kicks...but they don't exactly experience the wacky hormonal shifts or physical aches and pains of carrying the baby—and of course, they miss out on the labor pain. But new fathers definitely see a major lifestyle overhaul after they welcome their babies. It's natural to think they may even be more thrown off by the change—after all, they don't get those 40 or so weeks of bonding-with-baby time that mamas have the privilege of working through. With that in mind, it's easy to see how the experience of new parenthood could mess with a guy's mental state.

“Dads want to be part of the newborn experience, but often they feel like they’re on the ‘outside,’” Yaprak Harrison, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern, said. “Moms may not always realize they’re excluding Dad from caring for the baby, and they may fail to realize that he wants time with the little one, too.” And that could lead to some sadness and hurt feelings.

The team reported that around 10 percent of new dads experience what is called "paternal depression," and pointed out that their symptoms might look different than we expect to see from moms who have postpartum depression. While mamas may struggle to get out of bed or see major appetite changes, dads are likely to suffer emotional lows. They may cry or feel helpless—and since there's not a lot of dialogue about the issue of paternal depression, they may feel like they're all alone. According to the researchers, dads who struggle to deal with new fatherhood can benefit from meditation, therapy, and increased involvement in the baby's life.

Did your guy experience postpartum depression? How did you help him?