When we say the words postpartum depression, what kind of parent do you think of? You’re not alone if you answered ‘mom.’ We know we always thought postpartum depression (PPD) was something women dealt with upon welcoming a new baby into the world, but PPD is also a serious—and more prevalent than you might think—issue for new dads. To learn more about postpartum depression in men, we caught up with licensed marriage and family therapist Darren D. Moore, Ph.D.
Yes, Men Can Get Postpartum Depression Too. Here’s What You Should Know
Meet the Expert
Darren D. Moore, Ph.D., MAED, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical professor. He owns I AM MOORE, LLC, a counseling and consulting practice in Georgia that provides individual, couple, family and group therapy. Moore currently serves as the Associate Director for Clinical Training and Supervision in the master’s program in Marriage and Family Therapy at the Family Institute, Northwestern University. He obtained his Ph.D. in Human Development: Marriage and Family Therapy from Virginia Tech, his MS. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Valdosta State University, his B.A. in African American Studies from the University of Minnesota and holds a MAED in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
How Prevalent Is Postpartum Depression in Men?
“Researchers have suggested that 8 to 10 percent of fathers experience PPD,” Moore says, adding the caveat that these statistics are based on self-reporting. “What we know is that PPD among fathers may not be reported and men may suffer in silence, due to fear of being judged, simply not being asked or other barriers that prevent us from obtaining a true account on prevalence.”
What Are Some Warning Signs to Look Out For?
Per Moore, some symptoms include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Restricted range of emotion
- Lack of interest or pleasure when engaged in activities
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Issues with sleep (sleeping too much or not enough)
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Difficulties with concentration
- Potential suicidal ideation
Note that PPD can present differently in men and women. Specifically, as Moore points out, men dealing with PPD are more likely to exhibit anger or frustration, whereas women may be more prone to feelings of hopelessness, general sadness and frequent crying.
Why Do Some Men Experience Postpartum Depression?
You might be thinking, How can men get postpartum depression when they aren't going through the same hormonal shifts that women do after giving birth? But it turns out a.) studies (like this one published in the American Journal of Biology) have shown that new fathers can experience hormonal changes after their partner's pregnancy—notably, a decline in testosterone and b.) there are a host of other explanations for men experiencing PPD, whether it's related to witnessing PPD in their partner or simply having a prior history with mental health issues.
What Does Treatment for Postpartum Depression in Men Look Like?
Depending on the situation, treatment for postpartum depression in men can include individual or couples therapy, psychotropic medication or a combination of the two. “In therapy, a clinician may focus on exploring what is behind the postpartum depression and identify tools and strategies that could be implemented,” Moore tells us, adding that, “Therapy may also include developing coping mechanisms, changing outlook or mindset and developing additional supports.” He adds that the lack of screening for PPD in men is a huge issue. “We simply do not screen men for PPD,” Moore says. “We also rarely ask men how they are doing in general. With more screening, we can ensure men get the help they may need.”
How Can We Reduce the Stigma Surrounding Men Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression?
There’s stigma around people (specifically men) seeking mental health treatment in general, so think about how that stigma multiplies when men are seeking treatment for something typically thought of as a “woman’s” issue. To encourage men to look past any hesitation they might have, Moore says, “We must recognize the various changes that occur during the period when a man is transitioning to fatherhood. This would include normalizing mental health treatment, providing psychoeducation to fathers, to healthcare providers, and to society at large and we must create safe spaces for fathers to get the support and resources they need.” Seeking psychological help is not a weakness; in fact, it’s an important and brave step in being the best parent you can possibly be. “Fatherhood is a journey, not a destination…and fathers need support throughout the process…during pregnancy, birth and beyond,” Moore adds.