Postpartum depression (PPD) is often defined as an episode of major depressive disorder (MDD) occurring soon after the birth of a child. It is frequently reported in mothers but can also occur in fathers. Some signs of postpartum depression in men include anxiety, lack of sleep, change in partner relationship dynamics, and changes in eating patterns. New fathers who have a history of depression, experience relationship problems, or are struggling financially are most at risk for developing postpartum depression.
Hormonal changes might predispose the father to experience PPD or increase existing symptoms associated with PPD. For example, low testosterone has been directly linked to symptoms of depression in men, whereas low levels of estrogen, prolactin, vasopressin, and/or cortisol in new fathers might cause difficulties in father-infant bonding/attachment, which in turn can contribute to depressed mood in the father.
PPD has been associated with adverse consequences, yet is a treatable condition. Clinicians are encouraged to screen for depression in fathers, particularly during the first year postpartum, especially if anxiety or risk factors are present. Antidepressant therapy or psychotherapy have been shown to be effective treatment modalities. If medication to help PPD has not worked, consider Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS therapy offers another choice for depression for both men and women experiencing PPD and is a safe method for pregnant (and breastfeeding) women. Recognizing and treating paternal PPD can improve the quality of life for the father and the family unit and decrease the risk for emotional and behavioral problems in children.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that postpartum depression treatment is available and it is possible to feel better. New parents should not feel shame for experiencing PPD and seek treatment for their symptoms.
Scarff, Jonathan R. “Postpartum Depression in Men.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, Matrix Medical Communications, 1 May 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6659987/.