Postpartum Depression: Fathers Feel It, Too

Men's Health

Obie Editorial Team

Most people know that new mothers sometimes get the baby blues but a growing body of evidence says fathers sometimes feel it, too. When a new parent experiences the blues to an extreme for an extended period of time, postpartum is the likely diagnosis.

Men stuff their feelings

New mothers will likely see their obstetrician or pediatrician on a regular basis after the birth of a baby so there is plenty of opportunity to discuss troubling thoughts and feelings with a medical specialist. New fathers usually don’t have the advantage of regular face-time with a physician. They may not feel comfortable discussing feelings, either, especially negative feelings that cause them to question their ability to be a good father. They don’t want to admit they’ve suddenly started crying a lot when no one is looking.

New dads and postpartum depression

A new study from Northwestern University in Illinois indicates new fathers suffer postpartum depression more often than even they realize. Sheehan Fisher, the lead author of the Northwestern study, said, “New fathers should be screened and treated for postpartum depression, just as we do for mothers.” He says children are affected by their father’s emotional well-being just as they are affected by their mother’s.

Sheehan and his research team queried 200 couples shortly after they had a child and again when the child was 3. Both times, each parent, independent of the other, responded to a questionnaire that asked about depression, their relationship with the other parent, and their child’s internalizing behaviors (anxiety, jitteriness, sadness) and externalizing behaviors (acting out, hitting, lying).

Analysis of the questionnaires revealed that:

  • Toddlers’ internalizing and externalizing behaviors were influenced by depression in either or both parents.
  • A parent with postpartum depression was likely to still be depressed three years later.
  • Parental fighting does not affect the child as negatively as parental depression does.

Men keep symptoms hidden