Fathers and Postpartum Depression

I’ve run across another doozy that has had my blood pressure up for much of today (as this was actually written late on Wednesday night).  So, what’s gotten me in a tizzy this time?  Oh, the usual.  More remarks made out of ignorance.  This time it’s about the myth that fathers can’t possibly develop postpartum depression (PPD) because, um, well, they’re men.  They don’t go through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum–with hormone fluctuations galore.  That part is true.   But fathers do also experience sleep deprivation (particularly if their wives are experiencing PPD), anxiety (from being a first-time parent and worrying about his wife who is going through PPD), and possibly many other types of stress (e.g., work, finances, etc.).   Sleep deprivation, anxiety and other types of stressors can trigger depression.  

Before I go any further with my post, you should also check out these other blog posts over at Postpartum Progress,  MyPostpartum Voice Postpartum Dads Project, and Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond.

Now, onto the rest of my post.  If you are a new dad currently suffering from depression, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.   There are increasing amounts of resources out there that can help you get through this.  Go to the PPD Websites I list on my home page.  Both fathers and adoptive parents can absolutely develop PPD.   Hormones do play a major, but not sole, role in PPD. Granted, every woman that gives birth goes through a major shift in the levels of hormones. But hormones are not a factor in the PPD that fathers and adoptive parents experience. When I first heard about adoptive parents getting PPD, I thought c’mon who are they trying to kid? How could a woman who does not give birth and have huge hormonal shifts possibly have PPD? And how can a man go through PPD? For both the father and adoptive parents, there is no “post-partum” in the literal sense, and the depression they experience is obviously not related to hormones, but is associated with the exhaustion experienced by all new parents from having to care for a newborn and a sudden change in lifestyle and priorities. Finally able to have a child after unsuccessful attempts to conceive on their own, it is not surprising adoptive parents enter parenthood with hypervigilance and anxiety, unable to relax and get adequate sleep. Whether a father or adoptive parent experiences depression is dependent on his/her biological, psychological, personality and environmental factors unique to him/her. It is, after all, possible for serotonin levels to react to continued anxiety, sleep deprivation and disruption of one’s circadian rhythm or sleep pattern. And an extended period of sleep deprivation and/or constantly interrupted sleep is a form of torture used on POWs to extract information from them.

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WARNING:

If you don’t have a high tolerance for mean, derogatory (and just plain ignorant) comments, then skip the rest of this blog post where I focus on comments that are basically men and women who don’t know a thing about depression (and obviously don’t care or give a crap about anyone else).  These people think their way of thinking is the only way of thinking, getting their kicks out of putting down other people.  

The following note is intended to address those who are fortunate enough to never have known anyone or have never experienced a mood disorder for themselves:

  • Until you do experience such a thing firsthand, you really should think twice about saying something you are no expert about.  It just makes you look way stupid, especially people in the media who have the opportunity to–unlike most of us–get the attention of the public, be it by way of the radio, television, magazines, or what have you, but fail to utilize that spotlight to educate others.  These people would rather contribute toward the stigma that society is so good at perpetuating.  Here’s an example.  In response to the CNN article written by Elizabeth Landau “Dads Get Postpartum Depression, Too”, Vince Vitrano, a news anchor tweets the following:  “Post Partum Depression for dad’s? Really? Already a name for that. Called ‘Llife got tougher. Deal.’ Judges also would accept, ‘Parenthood.'”

There are scores of other tweets in response to the same article, including:

  • $5 says post partum depression in dads has risen directly at the same rate as businesses offering paternity leave.
  • CNN: “Dads get post-partum depression too.” Oh, come on. It’s called sleep- and sex-deprivation.
  • A man suffering from postpartum depression is a girly man.

But these tweets are tame compared to the comments plucked out of the 400+ comments in the comment chain of the CNN article.  I’m thankful there were some great comments made by people who are really knowledgeable about depression, in general.  This one comment stuck out for me.  It was just one line, and I agree with it 100%:  “I would just change the name, call it something else other than postpartum depression.”   Just maybe, it might just be worth considering by those who make these types of decisions.  Hello, American Psychiatric Association?  You know why I say I’m inclined to suggest such a thing?  Well, it seems that, while people may generally agree that men can be depressed by certain biological, sociological, and environmental factors–i.e., sleep deprivation, anxiety, a spouse who has PPD, lack of support–after the birth of a baby, the confusion–and in many cases anger–stems from the fact that men don’t go through all that women have to go through and don’t even have the same hormones that fluctuate so wildly from start to finish.   That until a man grows a uterus and carries a child and delivers that child into the world themselves, they are “whiners” and “pansies” who should “grow a pair,” “man up,”  “be as a man should be” because after all, “real men control their emotions.”  Real men “suck it up, tough it out, and take it like a man.”  People are taking the term “postpartum” way too literally.  Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after a baby is born.  It can happen to adoptive parents.  It can happen to fathers.  Period.

But the majority of the chain of comments originate from people who haven’t got a clue.  Mind you, these are remarks made by both men and women alike that cover the whole gamut of negative types of reactions to the CNN article that dares to say that there is such a thing as PPD in men.  These comments range from disgust, outrage, disbelief, idiocy and pure ignorance.            

Remarks like the following:

“Weak, what guy gets depressed about having a child? I have two boys and was excited when they were born. I know several fathers who were also happy when their children were born, they never took any days off, they said they ‘wanted to spend more time with their kids, but someone has to pay the bills’. Men be Men again, stop wearing makeup put the metro clothes in the trash and do what you have to do…..Also what retard has suicidal thoughts after bringing a life into this world? If you are going to off yourself, do it before you have children.” – Way to go with all that compassion, dude.  Guess there’s no such word in your vocabulary.  What a shame.  With your piss-poor attitude, I’m surprised you’ve gotten this far in life.  Calling people names and telling them they might as well off themselves is real grown-up.  It’s very doubtful you would be singing the same tune if you were to suffer from depression yourself.  Then, when that happens, see if those who doubt the existence of depression will come down hard on you….there is such a thing as karma.  Yanno, what goes around comes around. 

“This is a complete load of BS. People are responsible for their own actions, and articles like this try to make the angatonist the hero. ‘Poor guy, he would love his kids more if he got medication.’ Complete, and utter BS. The same thing goes for women.”  – You don’t control your decisions and actions if your mood disorder is severe enough. It’s always easy to say what you would do if you were in someone else’s shoes, but it doesn’t work like that.  You obviously have never suffered from or have any real knowledge of depression and what it can do to a person.  Until you do, you haven’t a clue and therefore should keep your mouth shut rather than posting such ignorant comments.

“I have two toddlers, I think the only depression I had/have is knowing I don’t have the freedoms I once had like work on my hobbies without interruption, be able to sleep in on Saturday mornings, etc. But then when my kids give me a big hug and kiss (on those Saturday mornings) my depression goes away and we sit and watch Dora the Explorer.” – Please, depression does NOT go away with watching television.  No one who has true depression can just snap out of or will their depression away.   I suggest you do some reading up on the topic so there is one less person out there mistaking unhappiness for depression.

To the following 3 comments, I’d like to say that it’s never a good idea to over-generalize about things you obviously don’t have a clue about.  That’s just ignorant.  Real depression is not an excuse made up by mothers and fathers to avoid taking care of their babies.  Having depression while also having to care for a brand-new baby does not make you any less of a parent or any less loving of a parent.  Nor does it make you a coward, immature or irresponsible.  There are many, many parents out there—both moms AND dads–who have suffered from depression after just having had a baby, and are just as loving as the parent who hasn’t suffered from PPD.  If you’ve personally experienced it, you would know better.  Until you can say that you’ve been depressed before and/or are an expert on depression, then keep your mouth shut rather than criticizing others.  The couple could have faced a lot of stress up to that point including health issues, infertility issues, difficult pregnancy, traumatic childbirth experience, etc..  Do you really know without a doubt what another person’s private life and circumstances are like?   Open up your mind.  Everyone’s life isn’t the same as yours.  Everyone is different.  Everyone’s circumstances are different.  Get a grip on reality, will ya! 

  • “I think what annoys some of us [so-called good fathers] is that many men who just want to avoid the responsibilities of being a father scream depression just like many women who don’t want to take care of their kids scream depression.”
  • “[Most] men don’t like babies. Hence enormous “office hours” just to stay away from screaming little monster. And if they can’t (due to the social pressure), here comes Prozac.”
  • “Sounds to me like the coward just didn’t have the spine to face the new responsibility. He needs to grow up befor thinking about having anymore kids.”
Believe it or not, this next one is all from one person (I lumped them all together to show just how ridiculous this person’s comments–which continue back & forth between various individuals in the chain–are).   The comments this person (actually a woman) makes are so mind-boggingly ignorant, it really, really, really blows my mind.  They should just pat themselves on the back for winning, in my book, the IGNORANT, RUDE AND LUDICROUS award.  
“[If] I ever heard my husband complain so bitterly about having only ONE child, whining about the things he can’t do anymore and saying he wanted to get fixed to keep his family tiny – I would think I had married a loser…..Oh poor you. You can’t workout as long as you used to! Your hobbies are on hold! The house isn’t in as good of condition as it used to be! Hello, this is life – welcome to it! I’m sorry you are so ill equipped to handle even something as ordinary and normal as having a family……This seems like a problem that older first-time dads would have. They’ve gotten used to their selfish, lazy, indulgent lifestyle of eating out, vacationing whenever they want, pursuing hobbies, having extra money, sleeping in, owning a nice home and having their wives all to themselves. Now life has changed – boo hoo it’s sooo hard! Grow up and grow a pair! Women can blame fluctuating hormones – men can only blame being bummed out by the extra work! …..This article isn’t about being bummed out over a hectic lifestyle. This article is about being bummed out after having a child. While I agree with you that life is stressful and full of ups and downs, I do not think it is fair to blame your depression on an infant….My husband and I have five children, and are open to having more. We thank the Lord every day for how blessed we are. However, I work with families who have not been as fortunate. If you are the parent of a healthy child, you should thank your lucky stars and stop focusing on how “hard” it is.”

There were many other ridiculous comments not even worth mentioning here.  The people who posted those comments just posted for the sake of posting.  There are men in the chain who put other men down so they can feel manlier.  The whole 400+ comment thread was filled with remarks that weren’t even understandable because their English was so bad, derisive comments made by people who wanted to one-up the person who commented before them, people analyzing how the real men who”didn’t have time to be depressed” were pre-90s men and all post-90s men are wusses, people who mistakenly jump to the conclusion that ALL men who don’t help out with the baby must be suffering from depression (yes, there are men who refuse to help out…refer to 2nd half of this previous blog post).  Basically, people who claimed they know all about depression when they haven’t got the slightest clue.   Whose fault is that?  Well, society is a great contributor to the lack of public awareness and the stigma that stubbornly refuses to go away.

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5 thoughts on “Fathers and Postpartum Depression

  1. As a Father i joined my wife’s feelings..and really cared about her, when she suffered a depression postpartum. I don’t care what she acted as long as i let her ruled the world and supported her. I love my wife so much.

  2. GREAT post! I KNOW my husband had it ROUGH when our son was born. I was a mess, my son was colicky, things were terrible for my husband at work. I am surprised he handled as well as he did. If something there hadn’t given (he lost his crappy job), he would have developed PPD for sure. Those people who say otherwise are so ignorant–and I guess lucky in a way if they haven’t ever had to go through the horrible crap that is PPD. It’s just sad that those people can’t have some compassion for those of us who don’t have it so “lucky”.

    • Hi Katie,
      Glad you like the post! Thanks for visiting today and posting a comment! Yes, it is an awful shame that there are so many out there who lack compassion. It’s also a shame that people have to suffer PPD (both women and men) in the first place. The world would be a much better place if people were kinder to each other. I am glad that things weren’t too, too bad for you and your husband. I did read about your husband’s experience in one of your recent posts. Thanks for sharing that!
      – Ivy

      • I know a woman whose husband had PPD after the birth of their child. Although they never identified his changed behavior as PPD. She just thought he was being selfish by not being present in the marriage and with care of the baby. I never considered that men can have PPD until this woman told me about her experience. His behavior caused a big riff in their marriage, which I think exists to this day – their baby is two.

        • Hi Ann,
          I also know a woman whose husband didn’t help with the baby and was jealous of the attention the baby got. His behavior may not necessarily be due to PPD. His being an only child may have had something to do with the behavior, but the primary reason behind his behavior was due to his lack of experience with babies and not knowing how to interact with and take care of infants. Now that the baby is about two, he is able to interact with the child more, but unfortunately, they are now divorced. What a shame. I have read similar stories, and it’s a real shame that so many marriages come to this.
          – Ivy

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