Postpartum depression is something commonly associated with women who had just given birth. But, research shows that not only the softer side of a couple is prone to this – according to some, approximately 1 out of 10 men experience it too… while others say it goes up to 1 out of 4 new dads! So, what are the symptoms and which is the best way to deal with it?
PPND (Parental Postnatal Depression) is a common condition that occurs usually during the first year after the birth of a child. It is treatable, but often not recognized, which can lead to much bigger problems for men, the child and the family as a whole. There are some risk factors that may increase the chances of men getting PPND, such as lack of good sleep, excessive stress because of becoming a father, lack of support from others, a non-understanding family, feeling excluded from the mother-child relationship, economic problems, etc. Only having one, or several of these factors, doesn’t mean that a man will automatically get postpartum depression. But if you start feeling blue, consider consulting a professional and coping with these problems before they get out of hand.
So, you suspect you suffer from PPND, but how can you establish whether or not you really have it? There are several ways and some distinctive symptoms. A lot of research has been done recently to examine PPND both in men and in women, and one thing is for sure: if one of the partners get it, the other one is more likely to get it as well. Up to half of men whose partners got postnatal depression are depressed themselves. If you feel that the relationship with your partner is poor, that she takes everything you say the wrong way and that everything you do is wrong, she may be depressed. This may lead to you feeling less worthy, feeling like a bad parent and partner, and eventually may lead to you getting depressed just like her.
Some of the most common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Lack of energy and sleep problems
- Loss of interest in sex
- Socializing less than usual
- Change in appetite
- Problems at work
- Feelings of anxiety and worrying a lot
- Pain for no apparent reason
- Feeling dethatched from everyday life
If you think that you may be experiencing PPND, there is a useful self-assessment that you can download and solve in order to see whether you should get some help. Download it here.
Now if you have established that you do suffer from postnatal depression and decided that you want to get better, you are already half way there. Recognizing your condition is very important, as we all know. You can now decide whether you want to get therapy or try to cope with it on your own (or together with your partner). Knowing that you want to feel better will be the most important thing in the next period.
There are many ways to help you deal with the condition. Try establishing a relationship with your baby. You are very important to them even though they are still not able to show or say it. Participate in everyday activities with the new member of your family, such as bathing it, changing his nappy or taking it for a stroll. Or, how about reading a bedtime story? Hold your baby, talk to him or her, be a part of their daily routine and make them a part of yours. It may also help meeting other new dads or the ones with experience and talking to them. Don’t hold it in, talk to your partner, family and friends and listen to their advice – who knows, maybe you know someone who has been through it and can help you with it. You may even want to join a support group, get some self-help books or apply for online programs. Try your best and keep in mind that this phase will pass.
If you notice that none of the strategies above are helping you, it may be the time to get professional help. There is no shame in wanting to be the best father to your child, and you have to keep that in mind. Visit your GP and ask to do some health check-ups such as blood tests, to ensure that this is not a physical problem. If there is no issue there, they will direct you and advise you. You may be recommended antidepressants or talking therapy – your GP can refer you to a good therapist in the area.
If you have PPND, remember that you are not alone and that by the time your child is a year old, this will all be over. There is nothing to be ashamed of and there is no need to hide and keep it to yourself. Turn to the ones who love you and support you and try spending more time with your baby. One day you will just wake up and realize that you are the happiest person alive to have a little son or daughter who loves you more than any other person in the world!