Postpartum Affects Fathers, Too – Men's Mental Health in the Perinatal Period
Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Did you know that June is Men's Health Month and June 14th-20th is Men's Health Week?
Every year, the goal is to bring awareness of male health issues (including mental health), and to encourage them to take action to improve their overall health.
Today, I am writing about a group of men that is often forgotten: men in the perinatal period.
What is the perinatal period?
The perinatal period is from conception to 1 year following birth.
The role of men within the family has changed a lot over the past few decades, with dads being much more involved than before. While we tend to focus on the mental health of mothers during the pregnancy and the postpartum period, it's just as important to consider the fathers and look into what they are going through emotionally, as well.
Are men at risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)? Can men get postpartum depression?
Just like women, men are at increased risk of mental health problems during the perinatal period. The vulnerable time that comes with a lot of drastic lifestyle changes, and sleep deprivation, which brings extreme emotional shifts. Just like their female partner, men’s hormones fluctuate during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Let's look at the facts:
About 10 % of men are affected by depression, and up to 18% develop an
anxiety disorder at some point during the pregnancy or within the first year postpartum.
How does perinatal mood and anxiety disorders show up in men?
Men can experience different symptoms than those observed in women. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of postpartum depression or PMADs in men include:
Loss of pleasure, loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex
Bottling things up, shutting down
Increased irritability, anger and conflict with others
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Significant weight gain or loss
Appearing distant or withdrawing from family and friends
Being easily stressed or worrying constantly
Impulsiveness or risk-taking (i.e., reckless driving or extramarital affairs)
Feeling sad or crying for no apparent reason
Thoughts of suicide or death
There’s a number of risk factors that will contribute to the development of PMADs, such as a history of depression, high-stressed lifestyle, and the development of PMADs in the mother (which is considered one of the biggest risk factor).
Why are new dads not getting the help they need?
Unfortunately, PMADs in men is rarely talked about. When we talk about PMADs or postpartum depression or mood disorders, we often talk about PMADs in them in the context of women, which presents the idea that these disorders only affect women.
When it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, due to the heavy emotional and physical strain it has on the mother, it often presents the idea that the father's health and needs are secondary. There is a lot of stigma and societal pressures surrounding men and mental health. They are often told to "man up" or that it is weak to address their mental health struggles or ask for help.
What to do if you are a dad with perinatal mood and anxiety disorder or postpartum depression:
If you’re a new dad and you’re facing unexpected struggles as parent, I encourage you to come forward and seek help. Yes, this means talking, which I know may be uncomfortable. However, it’s necessary.
What to do if you suspect someone has male perinatal mood and anxiety disorder or postpartum depression:
If you suspect a man in your life or your child's father is being affected by PMADs or postpartum depression, ask them how they are doing. Let them know that they are safe and encourage them to speak openly about what they are feeling. Let them know they have your support and that their mental health is as much as a priority as yours. It may be hard to get them to open up, but be kind, gentle and supportive and encourage them to seek professional help, if needed. Treatments like therapy, medication, as well as changes in selfcare practices can improve
Here’s a great site with a lot of information, videos and resources on the topic: