I am a new dad, and I am depressed. Is this postnatal depression?

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Men, like women, are almost as likely to suffer from depression after becoming a parent. However, is it the same as postnatal depression?

Michael and his beautiful wife Angela gave birth to a beautiful girl a few months back. While Angela was involved in Cynthia’s each and every activity, Michael was finding it increasingly difficult to ‘feel’ the fatherhood. All he could feel was a lack of sleep and an ever-increasing urge to run away. He knew it was depression, but could it be called postnatal depression?

Michael is not alone

Michael knew that in a small corner of his heart, he was overjoyed by being a father. And yes, he was so excited for the delivery. He was inside the operation theatre where Angela underwent a C-Section. Cynthia’s first cry, he would never forget. He enthusiastically decorated the nursery, spent the three days literally at the hospital, just making sure that his two angels had everything they needed. He even forgot his dinner at times, and Angela had to remind him to eat!

And suddenly, within a few days, his excitement was replaced by something darker. He changed the diapers, helped bathe Cynthia, even took her out for a stroll to give Angela some peace and quiet. However, he was finding it increasingly difficult to feel happy. Even the cherubic face of Cynthia could barely bring a smile to his face. 

Yes, Michael is not alone. According to a report, 10% of all dads undergo this kind of depression. This is close to the figure in women, which is about 12%. However, baby blues, a milder form of postnatal depression is more common in women. Women feel sad where they should be feeling happy. They become emotional and may have breakdowns over seemingly trivial matters. But the good thing is, the blues pass away in a few days. 

Postnatal depression in men

In women, postnatal depression has been studied to a greater degree. An imbalance of hormones has been implicated in this, and the stress of parenthood and sleep deprivation do not help at all! However, researchers have started to acknowledge the ‘dad blues’ just recently. 

Men who suffer from depression of the parenthood are less emotionally available than other dads. They are more likely to spank their children and less likely to engage in developmental activities like reading for their children. Many men also use this mental condition to justify substance abuse or even infidelity. 

The reason for depression in men is thought to be similar, a lower level of Testosterone. However, anxiety and lack of sleep contribute as well. The saddest part is, men suffer from depression far worse than women because of a lack of an emotional support group. In many cases, friends are not emotionally available, and many think that is not ‘manly’ to share emotions. However, researchers are debating if this should be called postnatal depression, as the term is reserved for women.

Spotting depression

Names and labels don’t matter, what matters is action. So, it should not matter if you and I can call it PND. It is important that we spot signs of it and help the new father. So if you just had a kid, or your brother just became a dad, look out for these telltale signs in him.

  • Loss of interest in the baby
  • Feelings of hopelessness, of not being able to cope 
  • Not being able to enjoy anything
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Sleeplessness or extreme tiredness
  • Poor performance at work due to aches and pains, memory loss, or just an inability to concentrate at a task
  • More sick days than usual
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss

In severe cases, suicidal thoughts are quite common. Men also confess to an increased risky behaviour. 

What to do in such cases

If you feel that your man or your mate is suffering from depression, it is important that he speaks to an expert. Michael saw a psychiatrist. The doctor gave him some medicines that made him feel better, but more importantly, he was assured by an expert that the condition was temporary. 

The psychiatrist also recommended a website, Post Partum Men that has been helping new dads like Michael for quite some time now. He is also making a conscious effort to share his feeling with his family members. And yes, the results are apparent as now, he is seen more involved in taking care of Cynthia. 

He maintains that women go through a lot during the pregnancy and childbirth. So it will be unfair to them for his condition to be labelled as postnatal depression. He strongly urges other fathers to seek professional help in this matter. 

Also, read Postpartum depression symptoms and treatment options

For Mum & Dad Postpartum depression Health / Wellness