Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase we will earn a small commission.
For all too many dads out there depression after their child is born is a real issue. It can be confusing as everyone around you expects you to be the happiest man in the world and you know you should be but you just can't control the way you feel inside. Many men try their best to hide their feelings and as men we're all guilty of doing that one way or another. But if PPND goes unchecked and untreated it can get worse and become extremely destructive in a man's relationships, career, health and even cause psychological, social and behavioral problems with his children.
DaDiDeal had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Will Courtenay, a single caregiver Dad of two beautiful children and an expert in PPND and helping Men. See Full Bio below.
Thank you Dr. Will for your time. Do men suffer from Baby Blues & how is PPND different from that?
Paternal Postnatal Depression is a clinical term for when a new father gets depressed after the birth of his child. This can happen anytime within the first month to the first year after his child is born. Postpartum depression is different from the “Daddy Blues,” which many new dads can experience. With normal stress or the Daddy Blues, a guy’s going to feel better when he gets a little extra sleep, he goes to the gym, or has lunch with a friend. But with depression, these things won’t make him feel better. With depression, the symptoms are more severe and also last longer.
How prevalent is PPND in modern dads of today. Is it more evident in certain countries?
Well, it’s a surprisingly widespread. Internationally, 1 in 10 men suffers from PPND. The percentage is higher in the United States, where 14% of dads experience postpartum depression. That's 1 in 7 fathers. And during the 3- to 6-month period after a man’s child is born, that risk increases to 25%. That amounts to over 3,000 dads who become newly depressed each day in the United States.
How can our readers tell if they may be suffering from PPND?
PPND in men is not so easy to spot, because when we think of someone who’s depressed, we usually picture someone sad and crying. But depression in men doesn’t always look like depression. It can look like irritability and anger, working constantly, drinking or gambling too much, or having an affair. These are some of the ways men can experience and cope with depression differently than women.
Now, we can also see more classic signs of depression – such as a sad mood, loss of pleasure in hobbies or sex, a sense of worthlessness, and thoughts of suicide. But we have to remember that men are more likely than women to try to hide their depression, so looking out for any sign of something unusual is critical.
In terms of depression, in general, women and men often differ in how they experience and cope with depression. Men have less effective coping strategies than women when it comes to depression, which compounds their risks. Men are more likely to try to simply avoid it – by denying it, distracting themselves, drinking more alcohol. They’re also less likely to use healthy strategies, like talking to friends and getting help. All of these factors compound men’s risk for depression.
Men also experience depression differently. They are more likely than women to report somatic complaints or ongoing physical problems that are evidence of underlying depression. The guy with constant stomach aches or headaches might actually be experiencing depression. Postpartum, it's important to remember that many new dads feel like they lost their best -- and sometimes only -- friend. Men have fewer friendships and social networks than women do – and they often times don’t rely on the friends they do have. For the average guy, his spouse or female partner is his primary -- and sometimes only -- source of support. So, it’s not surprising that one in three new dads feels shut out from the relationship between his partner and baby. When that person suddenly has a new 24/7 job, a new dad can easily feel abandoned.
Over half of new fathers report that they feel like their spouses or partners don't love them as much as they did before they had a baby. Whether they’re shut out or unloved, these dads are at greater risk for depression.
Doctor Will, what are the causes of PPND?
There are a number of possible causes of depression in dads. A lack of sleep is probably the biggest culprit. When normal, healthy adults are deprived of good sleep for one month they can begin to develop clinical signs of depression.
Changes in hormones may also play a role. When we think of hormonal changes and childbirth, we usually think of pregnant women and nursing moms. But men’s hormones change too – both during pregnancy and after their babies are born. And it’s a double-whammy. Not only do our testosterone levels decrease – but our estrogen levels increase. But these aren’t the only hormonal changes that occur in men right before – and after – a baby is born. Changes also occur in the levels of prolactin – which we associate with nursing moms – cortisol and vasopressin.
These hormonal changes can really wreak havoc on a man’s life. This in combination with the neurochemical changes that occur in the brain as a result of sleep deprivation can combine to create the perfect storm that we see peak in the 3 to 6 month period. So the causes of postpartum depression may not be that different for women and men.
Postpartum depression is also linked with the baby being unplanned or unexpected, the father unhappy about the gender of the baby, the baby having health problems or being colicky, the baby having breast-feeding or bottle-feeding problems, and the father being young. Some other possible causes include a history of depression, a rocky relationship with his partner, and economic problems or stress. Men who’ve experienced the loss of loved ones – either recent or while growing up – are also at increased risk for depression.
Why is it important for a man to get help from someone who specializes in working with men?
The good news is, PPND is very treatable. Research shows that talk therapy is very effective in treating depression, as is talk therapy in combination with medication. But there are lots of treatments that range from traditional to alternative. The important thing is that a man gets help -- preferably from a licensed mental health professional and one who specializes in working with men.
Unfortunately, too many dads don’t get the help that they need. But if a man can't get help for himself, he should do it for his kids.
Research consistently shows that a father’s postpartum depression has a negative and long-term impact on the psychological, social, and behavioral development of his children -- especially boys.
We see this in children as young as two, all the way through adolescence, and into young adulthood. For example, these boys are at much greater risk for behavioral and conduct problems.
These negative consequences remain true regardless of whether the mother is depressed. If both parents are depressed, the child’s development is even more severely disrupted.
If any of our readers feel they may be prone to suffering with PPND after they have a baby how can they prepare for this before baby arrives?
Great question. The best thing for men to do is to try to prevent depression in the first place. And the best way to do that, is to address potential causes before they occur. These are all things he can do before the baby is born. If he has a history of depression, he should see a mental health professional and be prepared for a possible recurrence. If he and his wife or partner have a difficult relationship or poor communication, they should see a couples’ counselor. If he has economic concerns about supporting a child, he should get his finances in order before the baby is born.
If a dad is anxious about becoming a father, he can try to join a new dads' group or a baby boot camp in his community. The truth is, we’re expecting fathers to be more involved in parenting than ever before, but dads are unprepared. While most dads want to be involved, they don’t really know what that looks like. The fact is, many men had fathers who were completely uninvolved in parenting. That leaves new dads uncertain about what to do. That uncertainty can quickly lead to anxiety – and we know that anxiety postpartum often leads to depression. Thank you Dr. Will for giving us a better understanding of PPND. I am sure we have readers out there that are either currently suffering with postpartum depression or perhaps feel they may be at risk - can our readers contact you for further help? Do you offer telephonic/skype type consultations for your patients?
Yes, I provide phone consultation. Typically, that means setting up a weekly meeting. And I do work with people all over the world.
Will Courtenay, Ph.D. Dr. Courtenay
Known as “The Men’s Doc” – Dr. Will is recognized internationally as a leading expert in helping men. The American Psychological Association has called him, “a leading psychologist in the field of masculinity” and “one of the leading scholars, researchers, and public policy shapers in the psychology of men.” After being selected for inclusion in Who’s Who in America for the previous 9 years, Who’s Who announced in 2018 that Dr. Courtenay was being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award. The award honors those who have “demonstrated leadership, excellence and longevity within their respective industries and professions.” As a social worker and psychotherapist, Courtenay has spent decades helping and counseling hundreds of men. If you’d like to arrange an individual consultation with Dr. Courtenay, please call 415-346-6719. You can meet with him in person or over the phone. If you're located in the San Francisco Bay Area, you're welcome to participate in one of his groups.
PPND Self Assessment
The following self-assessment called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) can help determine if you are suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety.
We recommend that you print out this page and circle your answers. If you prefer, you can CLICK HERE to download the complete self-assessment, with instructions and scoring.
INSTRUCTIONS: Please circle the number of the answer that comes closest to how you have felt in the past week – not just how you feel today.
In the past week I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things:
0. As much as I always could 1. Not quite so much now 2. Definitely not so much now 3. Not at all
In the past week I have looked forward with enjoyment to things:
0. As much as I ever did 1. Rather less than I used to 2. Definitely less than I used to 3. Hardly at all
In the past week I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong:
3. Yes, most of the time 2. Yes, some of the time 1. Not very often 0. No, never
In the past week I have been anxious or worried for no good reason:
0. No, not at all 1. Hardly ever 2. Yes, sometimes 3. Yes, very often
In the last week I have felt scared or panicky for no very good reason:
3. Yes, quite a lot 2. Yes, sometimes 1. No, not much 0. No, not at all
In the past week things have been getting on top of me:
3. Yes, most of the time I haven’t been able to cope at all 2. Yes, sometimes I haven’t been coping as well as usual 1. No, most of the time I have coped quite well 0. No, I have been coping as well as ever
In the past week I have been so unhappy that I have difficulty sleeping:
3. Yes, most of the time 2. Yes, sometimes 1. Not very often 0. No, not at all
In the past week I have felt sad or miserable:
3. Yes, most of the time 2. Yes, quite often 1. Not very often 0. No, not at all
In the past week I have been so unhappy that I have been crying:
3. Yes, most of the time 2. Yes, quite often 1. Only occasionally 0. No, never
In the past week the thought of harming myself has occurred to me:
3. Yes, quite often 2. Sometimes 1. Hardly ever 0. Never
How To Complete Your Assessment
After you’ve answered each of the 10 questions, add together the numbers from each of your responses.
If the total number is 5 to 8, it is likely that you have an anxiety disorder. If the total number is 9 to 10 or more, it is likely that you have depression.
If the total number is five or more, further assessment by a licensed mental health professional is recommended. If any number other than “0” is circled for question 10, you should contact a mental health professional immediately.
The EPDS is an assessment tool and should not take the place of clinical judgment. DaDiDeal & it's writers are not medical practitioners or therapists and strongly advise anyone who feels they may be suffering with any form of depression or mental disorder to seek professional help from a licensed mental health professional .
Resources for Men Needing Help with Postpartum Depression
Call 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD) English and Spanish Text 503-894-9453
When you call the HelpLine, which is available 24 hours a day, you will be asked to leave a confidential message and a trained and caring volunteer will return your call or text. They will listen, answer questions, offer encouragement, and connect you with local resources as needed.
Author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies. Dr. Shosh Works with People All Over the World via Skype and Telephone.
PMDA provides FREE SUPPORT for Moms, Dads & Families affected by PPD & PMD's across Canada through virtual support groups & forums.
PANDAS Foundation helps support and advise any parent who is experiencing a perinatal mental illness.
Psychological Counsellor with special interest in PND
MensLine Australia is a telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns.
If you have suffered with PPND we would love to hear from you in the comments section. Our readers could benefit from your feedback so please share.