Friday, October 2, 2009

Dads Experience Postpartum Depression Too

Since Brooke Shields came out of the closet about her struggle with depression in her book, Down Came the Rain, after her daughter was born, it seems like more people in America are attuned to the fact that many, many women suffer from postpartum depression (PPD).

Most studies about postpartum depression focus on the mother's experience, including this new one by researchers in Spain, but it's important to remember that dads can get depressed after a baby is born as well as moms.

Here's a description of what one man who suffered from PPD went through (from an article in US News & World Report):
The birth of John Hyman's first child didn't fill him with the joy he might have hoped for. Far from treasuring every minute with his son, the Rockville, Md., college writing instructor reacted by teaching more courses just to get himself out of the house. "I didn't know what my role was there," recalls Hyman, now 51. His wife, by contrast, bonded instantly with their son, Jake, now a teenager. "Betsy fell in love. It was primal," he says. "I didn't have that experience. I thought I was broken. I remember thinking this was a dirty little secret I would have to deal with."
As much as 10 percent of new dads are affected by PPD, which can strike any time in the first year of a child's like.

According to the recent study of postpartum women only by researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia, there are ways to predict women who are at risk for postpartum depression. These include:
1. Lack of social networks and support
2. History of previous depression or psychiatric difficulties in the family
3. An emotionally or physically difficult birth or complications at birth
The researchers also point out two protective factors that make it less likely for women to experience postpartum depression:
1. Age of the mom: older moms are less likely to suffer than younger moms
2. Working during pregnancy: moms who work while pregnant tend to suffer less depression than moms who do not
We wonder what all this means for dads?

If you are feeling depressed or displaced after the birth of your baby, it's important to know that that feeling is normal and temporary and that your experience is nothing to be ashamed of.

The best thing you can do to combat those negative feelings is to talk about them--probably not with your wife--and to find other dads who can understand what you are going through and offer you support. Talking to a social worker or a psychologist can also help. Joining or even starting a dads' group and visiting on-line support groups for dads will make you feel less alone. Finding ways to be involved with your baby, right from the start, can also make you feel better and more connected to your family.

1 comment:

Tara Rose Crist said...

Wow, yes! There is so much truth to this. It also makes me think of a conversation I was having with a friend recently about the fact that it seems we've come to a place in history where women have more healthy and readily available support systems. This issue around fathers and birth is one part of the puzzle...!