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Postpartum Depression Isn't Just for Moms

Photograph by Twenty20

When the subject of postpartum depression comes up, we typically think of new moms. However, that assumption may be shortsighted. Turns out, almost as many dads suffer from the condition, too. Anywhere between 4 percent to 25 percent of men suffer from paternal postpartum depression, according to the University of Massachusetts' Journal of Parent and Family Mental Health. As many as 1 in 7 women (about 15 percent) suffer from PPD.

The study defines PPD as "moderate to severe depression in the postpartum period, which is shortly after or up to a year following delivery." Fathers are likely to experience an onset in the first 3 to 6 months after the baby arrives. Though, unlike with moms, few people are aware that it may be an issue for men, and they're less likely to ask for help.

When women battle PPD, we assume that several things are at play: hormones, stress, exhaustion, fear. It's a possibility that many of us are acutely aware of as we prep for new motherhood. So the question is, why does this also happen to men?

Some research suggests that if one partner has depression, the other is more likely to struggle with it. Researchers found that 24 percent to 50 percent of men with paternal PPD also had spouses dealing with it, according to a 2015 study from the International Journal of Childbirth Education. This may happen because new dads feel less supported and have the same fear, confusion, frustration, exhaustion and uncertainty as moms.

Some signs are universal, such as loss of interest in activities, significant weight loss or gain, fatigue, insomnia or hypersomnia, feelings of worthlessness, severe anxiety, inability to concentrate and thoughts of suicide. But men are more likely to also experience irritability, indecision, impulsivity, violent behavior, avoidance behavior and substance abuse.

It's important to note that it's not only the parent(s) with PPD who suffer. The condition can also affect a child's cognitive, emotional and social development because parental care often goes downhill.

Even more alarming, children of paternal PPD have an increased number of emotional and behavioral problems, lower psychological functioning, increased risk of suicide for sons and increased rates of depression among daughters in young adulthood. So, if you recognize the symptoms in yourself, a partner or even a friend, it's important to get help. It could be a life-saving move for the entire family.

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