It had been a few months since the birth of his son, but “Jake” couldn’t seem to shake his feelings of confusion, anxiety, and irritability.
“The baby only wanted to nurse, and I felt useless as a co-parent,” the Kaiser Permanente member said.
Jake was experiencing postpartum depression, or PPD, a common yet overlooked mental health condition affecting 7% to 10% of new fathers. Symptoms typically start 3 to 5 months after the birth of their baby but can occur up to one year after a baby is born.
New financial burdens, marital stress, and a lack of sleep are just some of the many lifestyle changes that contribute to PPD. And while new moms may be more inclined to focus on their emotional well-being and physical recovery postpartum, dads may keep their emotions bottled up.
Studies have shown that paternal depression can have a detrimental effect not just on dad’s mental health, but also on the emotional, cognitive, and social development of a child in his or her first few years. For the health of the whole family, it’s important for both parents to address the mood changes brought on by PPD as soon as possible.
Self-care is crucial during the postpartum period. New parents should prioritize eating well, getting exercise, and finding time to sleep. One way to maximize sleep is for mom and dad to alternate nights of “baby duty” so both parents aren’t up at the same time. In fact, 70% of mood disorders improve with better sleep.
If you think you might have PPD, don’t wait to ask for help. A good place to start is with your primary care physician. Various treatment options are available, and medication, along with therapy, can be quite effective.
Support circles also are important. Both online and in-person support groups can help connect new dads with others who are going through a similar experience. The online format of social media support groups is convenient for new parents who are short on time and adjusting to a new life in their household. It also offers a safe place for men to express their feelings.
Learn more about mental health and connect to the care you need.