More and more new dads are being diagnosed with postpartum depression. Why the increase?
Do new dads really suffer from their own form of postpartum depression? If you look at the number of antidepressant prescriptions handed out to newly minted fathers compared to dads of older kids, the answer appears to be yes, according to a British study published online September 7, 2010, in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
In the study, researchers examined the medical records of nearly 87,000 couples who had a baby between 1993 and 2007—and counted the number of parents who got prescriptions for antidepressants or received a diagnosis of depression. Among women, depression was found in 14 cases per 100 people in the first 12 months after a baby was born. That rate then dropped to about six cases per 100 people in the second year of their child's life. For fathers, the rate of depression in the first year was 3.56 cases in every 100 men. Depression rates then bounced between 1.95 and 2.72 cases per 100 men until their kids became teenagers, when it dropped.
According to a Los Angeles Times piece on the study, researchers also found that more new dads seem vulnerable to depression in the 2000s. At the beginning of the study in 1993, the rate of depression for dads was 1.61 cases per 100 men. By 2007, that figure was up to 2.87 cases per 100 men.
Does your man have a case of the new dad blues? The signs and symptoms of pre- and postnatal depression in men are often identical to those of typical depressive illness, and include irritability, anger, abuse of alcohol and illegal substances, low self-esteem, loss of interest in things and activities that were once pleasurable, fatigue, changes in appetite, and sleep disturbances—in addition to a lack of paternal bonding or involvement.
If you do notice these symptoms, a helpful first step may be to encourage the new dad in your life to make an appointment with his doctor for a preliminary physical examination. The doctor will usually inquire about family history, when symptoms of depression began, and any new or increasing dependence on drugs or alcohol. From there, specific treatment suggestions can be made.