Image credit: Wealthy Single Mommy
If your friend tells you that someone he or she knows just got diagnosed with postnatal depression recently after childbirth, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? I believe that majority of us will instinctively think that it must have happened to a woman. However, it is reported that men may now be as likely as women to suffer from postpartum depression. Why is it so?
Some of the common factors associated with paternal postpartum depression include:
- Having partner who is experiencing maternal postnatal depression
- Marital conflict or poor relationship with parents or in-laws
- Previous history of mental health issues especially depression
- Hormonal changes
- Increased pressure and self-expectations of fatherhood (e.g. new financial burdens, drastic change in lifestyle, increased workload at home, insufficient sleep, exhaustion, etc.)
- Lack of support both physically and emotionally
- Father who feels weaker connection with the baby as compared to the connection between the mother and baby
Paternal postpartum depression may afflict up to 1 in 4 new fathers. Hence, this mental illness should not be taken lightly as not only a man’s functioning may be impaired, but this mental illness may also adversely affect people around him, especially his spouse and newborn. It is a treatable condition, but apparently this mental illness may be under-diagnosed. Firstly, men are less likely than women to talk to friends and family or to seek medical advice for mental health problems as they tend to avoid expressing themselves emotionally and tend to deny feeling vulnerable. Secondly, it is due to lack of awareness in the society because paternal postpartum depression does not make the news as often as maternal postpartum depression, people may not be aware that postnatal depression actually affects men too. Besides, new fathers do not undergo screenings as often as new mothers do, or they might not even being screened, this increases the risk of men with postpartum depression being untreated and their conditions may worsen without knowledge.
How does one know if he has paternal postpartum depression?
Some of the common symptoms include:
- Constantly exhausted and lethargic
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of interest in usual activities and isolate themselves from others
- Change in weight and appetite
- Increased drug and alcohol consumption
- Feel down and unmotivated
- Frequent headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches and cramps
- Easily irritable and aggressive
- Thoughts about death or suicide
If you have some of the symptoms above and they last for more than two weeks, do not hesitate to seek medical advice from healthcare providers; or if you know anyone who exhibit similar symptoms as listed above, advise them to consult healthcare professionals. After all, parenting is never an easy job, especially for first-timers. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed about and there is no such thing as not good enough for the baby. We should all work together to put an end to the societal expectation that parents should only feel happy after childbirth. Having a newborn is indeed something to celebrate for, but it also signifies a life-changing event which some men may find difficult to cope with in various aspects such as new financial burden, less time for entertainment and increased responsibilities. Therefore, we should not only show support and acknowledgement to mothers, but also to fathers who serve as pillars of support for both the mothers and babies.