On Monday I got an email that a Wall Street Journalreporter was looking to interview someone about paternal postnatal depression. Not 10 minutes after that I saw an NPR reporter was looking for a contact on the same subject. Hmmm, I thought, must be big news coming out tomorrow on this topic…
Although postpartum depressionin new moms is well known and well documented, slightly more than 10% of new dads also become depressed before or after their baby’s birth.
The new findings were presented at a news conference sponsored by the American Medical Association and appear in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“This is a rate that is two times higher than what is generally seen in adult men,” says researcher James F. Paulson, PhD, a pediatrician at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. “This is a public health concern and something we need to pay attention to.”
I then saw several tweets on Twitter with people saying they didn't believe it for a second. Onetweeted that male postpartum depression "sounds like a good SNL skit". Men can't have postpartum depression! They don't have the babies! They don't have baseball-sized hemorrhoids! They aren't leaking from their head-of-lettuce-sized sore breasts! They aren't still bleeding and exhausted from childbirth!
I think the disbelief may come from the misconception that PPD is caused solely by a hormonal problem related to the act of giving birth. While hormones can play a part, there are a lot of risk factors external to the body that can lead to PPD that men are just as likely to have as women.They also canexperience sleep deprivation.Theyalso can worry when their children are born with health problems or when their wives have traumatic births.They also can have dreams about what having a baby will be like, and then must face when the reality doesn't live up to those dreams. Why wouldn't they be susceptible?
What I found really interesting was this from WebMD:
Prenatal and postpartum depression tend to run in families. Dads were more likely to become depressed before or after baby’s birth if the moms were also afflicted. There was also a correlation between the severity of depression among moms and dads in the study.
“It may be moms are leading the way or dad is leading the way, or this may be due to the child’s temperament or health,” Paulson says. Exactly why dads become depressed is not fully understood, but given the fact that postpartum depression tends to run in families, it may be related to the family dynamic.
Good to know for those of us who are suffering.
Bonus: Go read this piece from Joel Schwartzberg, who suffered from paternal postnatal depression and has had his story featured in Newsweek and on ABC.