Post-partum depression: Not just for mothers!

The pregnancy was textbook-perfect and the childbirth went without a hitch. And yet, less than two months after the baby was born, parental bliss was shattered by post-partum depression. This is a familiar tale, but this time with a twist: it was the father, not the mother, who was affected. He had become uncharacteristically anxious, sad and withdrawn. He had trouble sleeping, even though his wife was the one up at night breastfeeding the baby. He even reported suicidal thoughts.

The pregnancy was textbook-perfect and the childbirth went without a hitch. And yet, less than two months after the baby was born, parental bliss was shattered by post-partum depression. This is a familiar tale, but this time with a twist: it was the father, not the mother, who was affected. He had become uncharacteristically anxious, sad and withdrawn. He had trouble sleeping, even though his wife was the one up at night breastfeeding the baby. He even reported suicidal thoughts.

Up to 80 percent of women experience temporary sadness – commonly called the baby blues – after childbirth and up to 10 percent fall into postpartum depression. However, it seems that men can also suffer from postpartum depression and that its effects can be disruptive to the whole family. The exact prevalence of male postpartum depression is unknown. A study published in 2005, for which 26,000 parents were interviewed, showed that 4 percent of new fathers had experienced clinically significant depressive symptoms in the eight weeks following the birth of their baby. One thing is clear, however: this is a taboo subject.

Future parents may not realize what a life-transforming event a baby’s arrival is going to be. And yet, becoming a parent carries all kinds of insecurities that men tend to express less or for which they more rarely ask for help: What kind of father will I be? Will I be able to support my family? Is this the end of my freedom?

Studies show that the strongest predictor of postpartum depression is having a partner who is also depressed. In one study, fathers whose partners were also depressed had two and a half times the risk of suffering from depression.

We know that depression in mothers can affect the development of the bond with her children. While the hypothesis has not been studied at length in men, it is just as plausible in their case.

In short, it seems that post-partum blues are not exclusive to women. If you feel the need, don’t hesitate to ask for help… whether you are a man or a woman!

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