Can dads get postpartum depression?

Dad with postpartum depression

When people think about postpartum depression, mothers are the primary focus, but studies have shown that up to 10 percent of fathers struggle with it as well.

Just like women, men can experience hormonal changes during and after their partner’s pregnancy. Other factors that play a role in a father developing the disorder may include a personal or family history of depression, sleep deprivation, and feeling disconnected from the mother and baby.

“Dads want to be part of the newborn experience, but often they feel like they’re on the ‘outside,’” says Yaprak Harrison, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern. “Moms may not always realize they’re excluding dad from caring for the baby, and they may fail to realize that he wants time with the little one too.”

Although men may experience some of the “traditional” postpartum depression symptoms – fatigue and changes in sleep or appetite – they often exhibit fewer outwardly emotional expressions, such as crying. In general, the condition can look different in men than it does in women.

Paternal postpartum depression may need to be treated with professional help that can offer one or a combination of therapies, including psychotherapy, couples therapy, medication, or simple exercises. Support from family members can be crucial.

“Some support tips include encouraging the father to be involved with the baby and for the couple to spend time with each other,” says Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, M.D., Chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UTSW’s William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. “But also, make sure he knows that postpartum depression is common and is not his fault – and that he’s not alone.”

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