Mothers are not the only ones at risk of depression when the baby arrives. Postpartum depression strikes a lot of dads as well. A 2010 study found that 1 in 10 men gets depression either shortly before or after the arrival of a newborn. That's only slightly lower than the rate among women. And researchers reported in April that young dads remain at higher risk of depression during the first few years of fatherhood.
While health professionals know it happens, they don't know a lot about it, says Michael W. O'Hara, PhD. He's a professor of psychology at the University of Iowa. "People have begun to look at postpartum depression in men over the past several years, but it's still flying under the radar."
Male Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Are you a new or expecting dad (or do you know someone who is)? Pay attention to the possibility of depression. After all, it's not just bad for you -- it's bad for the baby, too. Depressed people tend to be less mindful about child safety, O'Hara says.
To make the transition to fatherhood a little bit easier, start by spotting the red flags of depression:
Watch for changes. Are you sleeping and eating poorly? Do you have less energy than usual? Do you enjoy everyday things less than before? These are symptoms of depression. "If a guy is out of his normal mood state for several weeks, I'd encourage him to seek some help," O'Hara says.
Sleep tight. Easier said than done, perhaps, but it's crucial because lack of sleep can make you more prone to depression.
"In the beginning, the key thing is to try to get a reasonable sleep schedule," O'Hara says. Take naps if necessary and work out a rest schedule with your wife or partner.
Talk, talk, talk. You're not in this alone, so talk with your partner about what you both expect, and tell her how you're doing. "Be as open as possible with your wife or partner, even if you find that difficult to do," O'Hara says.
Q: "My wife and I plan to have children. I've had episodes of serious depression in the past. Does that make me more prone to postpartum depression?" -- Brian Jones, 37, neuroscience PhD student, Portland, OR.
A: "Your history may help you to be on the lookout for signs. In addition to being aware of changes in mood and behavior following the birth of your child, you can try to set up your environment in a healthy way. Bolster your social support system, foster a collaborative relationship with your partner, and plan ways to continue good self-care." -- Pamela S. Wiegartz, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, Harvard Medical School, and co-author of The Pregnancy and Postpartum Anxiety Workbook
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