People typically think of new mothers when they hear the words postpartum depression. However, as many as 1 in 10 men will develop this type of depression. If you are a man and suspect you may have postpartum depression, read on to discover how to manage the symptoms.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression in women typically appears a few days to a few months after giving birth to a baby, when hormone levels begin to shift. A milder condition known as baby blues may appear early after delivery and last only a few weeks.
Some women develop postpartum depression months later. The intense emotions coupled with little sleep, very little time for self-care, caring for an infant, and other responsibilities can leave a woman sad, tearful, and irritable. Some women also feel guilty for wanting time for themselves. These typical postpartum depression behaviors can worsen over time without proper treatment.
If a mother has thoughts of harming herself or her baby, seek help immediately.
What does postpartum depression in men look like?
Postpartum depression in men can develop if you have a history of depression or if close family members also suffer from depression. The more time you spend caring for your baby, the likelihood that your testosterone levels will drop slightly. Not to mention your spouse’s focus and attention transferring from you to the new baby. All of these factors contribute to your chances of developing depression.
Having a new baby brings a lot of responsibility, and you may worry about providing for your family financially. With each new child, that worry may grow. You may be overwhelmed at the thought of trying to support a family.
As much as you love your wife, your physical relationship may take a backseat in this season. Both of you are probably running on little sleep, and with middle-of-the-night feedings, your bed may feel like a giant crib instead of a love nest. Men are also more likely to suffer from postpartum depression if their wife struggles with postpartum depression.
Common signs of postpartum depression in men include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness.
- Withdrawing and distancing from the family.
- Not feeling a bond with the new baby.
- Resenting the baby for the intrusion.
- Staying away from home.
- Angry outbursts or irritability.
- Feelings of guilt and shame for not “doing enough.”
Although it may seem impossible at times, hang in there. This time will not last forever. Your baby will soon sleep through the night and no longer need feedings from dusk until dawn. When your circumstances and hormones change, things will feel easier.
Tips for managing postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression may only last a few weeks, but if your depression remains constant or worsens, consider therapy. Working with a counselor gives you a safe place to vent your frustrations and learn how to effectively manage the life change of having a new baby in the house. You can also ask about couples counseling if you and your wife need some help getting back to a place of intimacy.
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms.
Acknowledge you are doing your best.
Instead of focusing on where you feel your weaknesses lie or what responsibilities fall to you, shift your mindset to what you are doing. This time in your baby’s life only lasts for a little while, and you have the opportunity to be involved in it.
Point out to yourself the things you can do. For example, maybe the best thing you need to do right now is to lay on the couch with your baby on your chest. Extend grace to yourself during this season of your life.
Frustration and stress can build, especially when you are tired and low on energy. You may feel too tired to do anything, yet, to increase energy, you need to have physical movement. Exercise releases endorphins that fight against feelings of sadness. Working out, even for a short time, can raise your confidence, boost your self-esteem, manage your weight, improve your health, and enhance your perspective.
Consider doing short, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts at home. Or, buy a jogging stroller, and take the baby with you on a run. You might also enjoy circuit training with weights. Spending just a short time doing something good for your body will result in a mental shift.
Alternate caring for the baby at night.
Sleep deprivation can make even the most steadfast parents cranky. Newborns can feed every two hours during the night. To get at least a few hours of sleep a night, consider alternating feeding and diapering responsibilities with your wife.
For example, maybe you take the first shift at midnight, then your wife takes the next feeding at 2:30 AM while you sleep. If your wife breastfeeds, will she consider pumping enough milk for you to feed the baby while she sleeps? Some couples alternate breastmilk with formula so that a friend or family member can take over while the parents get some rest.
Avoid substances that make depression worse.
Using certain substances makes depression symptoms worse. Imbibing alcohol and abusing drugs may provide temporary relief, but they inevitably cause more problems over time. Even prescription drugs, if taken beyond the dosage, can exacerbate symptoms.
Consider some questions if you feel like you need a drink to get through a rough night with a crying baby. Are you looking for something soothing? Is it just a habit? Or is the urge much stronger than that?
Speak to a counselor if you start struggling with using or withdrawing from alcohol and other substances. Addiction treatment may be helpful.
Realize that the grass is not greener over there.
With postpartum depression in men, you may struggle with feeling distant from the baby and your wife. Your wife may not be cleared for sex yet, or she may be too tired to be with you right now.
Try to remember that this is a temporary situation. The baby will grow, and the routine will change.
If you start noticing greener grass elsewhere, consider what you have to lose by entertaining an affair. Do not allow a short-term and hectic schedule to be your excuse for committing adultery. Instead, work with your wife to find quality time. This may be a season when you both need to work on emotional intimacy.
Find support from other dads.
Do you know other fathers? Perhaps some of your buddies from high school or college or a coworker have young children. How did they handle the first year? Can you glean tips from them that will work for your situation?
Look around at your church if you do not know another father personally. The minister or youth minister may have young children. You can also join a support group for fathers in your area or online. This group allows its members to share experiences and suggestions on getting through the first few years with young children at home.
Call in reinforcements.
If it is just you and your wife trying to care for a newborn, recruit the help of some of your extended family. Does either of you have parents or siblings willing to take over managing the baby for a few hours so you can rest?
Sometimes people are afraid they will intrude on a family. Make sure that people around you know that you would love to have their help. Inform them that this is a new experience for you, or if you have other children, let people know that you are feeling overwhelmed. You might be surprised to see how many people are willing to swoop in and care for the newborn for a few hours or take your other children for a weekend.
Reaching out for help with depression.
After the baby’s birth, everyone’s attention is on this new person. Yet, parents can struggle with the life event even one to two years after the baby’s birth date. Postpartum depression in men is real. If you are struggling, contact our office today to speak with a counselor. Depression can hold you back from enjoying your new addition and rekindling your romance with your wife. Help is only a phone call or a click away.
“Daddy and Daughter”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Father and Child”, Courtesy of Devon Divine, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Baby”, Courtesy of Wesley Tingey, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Green Grass”, Courtesy of Ochir-Erdene Oyunmedeg, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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