The night you were born, I ceased being my father's boy and became my son's father.
That night I began a new life.
~Henry Gregor Felsen~
So little is known about Perinatal Mood Disorders, and even less is known about Postpartum Depression in Men. Can men suffer from postpartum depression? Can men suffer from other postpartum mood disorders or even mood disorders during their wife's pregnancy? What percentage of men can suffer from these illnesses? These are all extremely important questions with important answers! So let's explore together...
As everyone knows, bringing a new life into the world is one of the biggest events that will happen in anyone's life. From the planning stages to conception to pregnancy to postpartum and beyond, it is a massive undertaking that can truly only be taken one day at a time so as not to be overwhelming! It is no wonder that so many of us do become overwhelmed at some stages along the way and worse sometimes developing mood disorders.
Now when a women develops a mood disorder during pregnancy or postpartum it is often some combination of hormonal changes, changes in brain chemistry, a depletion of nutrients and lack of sleep. If a women has a previous history of mood disorders and/or mental illness, this can also amplify the situation. So, when perinatal mood disorders occur in men, what is happening...?
It is believed that because men are not physically going through the pregnancy that they cannot then be experiencing a hormonal shift, yet it is known that some hormonal shifts can be brought on by stress. Changes in brain chemistry can also be brought on by prolonged stress and/or mental illness. Can men experience a depletion of nutrients if they are not going through the physical part of the pregnancy - I don't believe so, however if he has been ignoring his diet for a prolonged period of time or his general health for that matter, this can contribute to the onset of mood disorders. A man's sleep cycle is just as easily affected by his wife's pregnancy and the new baby; if his expecting wife is suffering from insomnia this may too keep him awake; if the new baby is up many times in the night (which is generally the case) then this can also affect Dad as well as Mom. Prolonged lack of sleep can wear anyone down and most certainly bring about things like anxiety and depression. So essentially men can be faced with similar challenges to women during pregnancy and postpartum in-so-far as perinatal mood disorders are concerned.
What we recommend to Dad's who feel they may be going through something either during their wife's pregnancy, or after their baby is born, are similar recommendations we give to Moms. Talk to someone you trust and explain what you have been experiencing. Make an appointment to see your doctor, or multiple doctors if you think more than one opinion will be helpful. All of the resources we list on this website for Moms are also great resources for Dads. Have a look at the following sections:
Symptoms of perinatal mood disorders
Fathers Reaching Out
June 2013 Article in Todays Parent with quotes from Tascheleia Marangoni
Excellent article about postpartum depression in Dads:
Sad Dads: Paternal Postpartum Depression by Pilyoung Kim, MEd, BA and James E. Swain, MD, PhD, FRCPS