Dealing with Paternal Postpartum Depression
A father shares his experiences with postpartum depression.
No one says “women’s postpartum depression” because postpartum depression is widely understood to be a woman’s problem. In reality, though, many men also experience depression after the birth of their children. Some people may find the concept funny, but paternal postpartum depression is a very real problem, one I experienced after the birth of my second child in 2011.
The exact causes of postpartum depression in women isn’t entirely known, but many blame it on hormonal changes. Hormonal changes aren’t the only potential cause of postpartum depression, though. Many theorized causes of postpartum depression, like anxiety and difficulty adjusting to such a large life change, are ones that men face, too.
I didn’t experience depression after my first child, Madeline, came home from the NICU, but I definitely felt anxiety, pressure, and stress. Suddenly, I was getting much less sleep, no longer free to go out when I wanted, and responsible for the well-being of a tiny person who, in Madeline’s case, had special needs. Many men are unaware of just how monumental a life change becoming a parent is, and understandably find themselves depressed as they try to adjust to this new status quo.
I may not have experienced depression when Madeline came home, but I did following the birth of my second child, Annabel. There was one huge reason for this. Madeline unexpectedly passed away at seventeen months from prematurity related causes, and Annabel was born in the shadow of that tragedy. This, as you can imagine, was an incredibly difficult experience, but I didn’t anticipate the depth of feelings I would experience after Annabel’s birth. Though I dearly loved Annabel, I felt guilt and sadness over taking care of a baby girl who wasn’t Madeline. Irrational as it may have been, I felt like I was betraying Madeline somehow by being another little girl’s daddy. In addition to all of that, I was anxious over the possibility that something tragic might happen to Annabel. Thankfully, I was able to speak to a therapist whose counsel helped me greatly, and soon I was able to cope with all I was going through.
Most fathers don’t have to deal with issues like those, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to adjust to as well. If they need help, they should get it. My hope is that in time paternal postpartum depression will become more widely understood so men will feel more comfortable admitting to what they’re feeling. As I said earlier, some people may find the concept of paternal postpartum depression funny, but it’s not. It’s deadly serious and should be treated as such.
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