You’ve likely heard of postpartum depression (PPD) in women. Different from the “baby blues,” PPD is a severe, ongoing depression. But do you know that men can also experience a type of postpartum depression called paternal postnatal depression or PPND? It’s more common than you might think.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 10 percent of new dads show signs of depression from their partner’s first trimester of pregnancy through the six months after their child is born. That statistic jumps to 26 percent of men within three to six months after the birth of their child.
While a mother’s PPD is most likely triggered by hormonal fluctuations, it’s not completely known why men experience PPND. However, there is some evidence that a man’s hormones also fluctuate during their partner’s pregnancy and after birth.
Testosterone levels may drop, and estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol levels may increase. Some men even experience nausea and weight gain, which helps substantiate the age-old claim of “sympathy pains.”
But it’s possible that hormones are not to blame. Lack of sleep from having a new baby can also be the culprit, along with other issues he may be dealing with, like relationship issues with his partner, financial problems, added stress of more responsibility, or a sick baby. Men who have lost a loved one prior to their child being born also seem to be at greater risk of experiencing PPND.
The Telltale Signs
Symptoms of PPND in men can include:
- Panic attacks
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Decreased libido
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Significant weight gain or loss
- Distancing himself from mother and/or baby
- Decreased concentration or motivation
While the cause of paternal postnatal depression in men is not entirely understood, it is evident that PPND is a very real issue. If your partner or a loved one who has recently become a father is experiencing symptoms of PPND, you should encourage them to seek help. Our compassionate, expert staff at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston can recommend lifestyle changes or medications, and can assist in finding additional help, if needed.
Dr. Philip Saikin is an Internal Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Pearland Clinic. His goal is to provide care that will help patients and their families live longer by preventing illness. He welcomes new patients and accepts most health insurance plans.