Postpartum depression is a serious issue that affects tens of thousands of new parents every year. I decided that it would be a good idea to cover the topic more in depth after mentioning it in my post last week. This is a topic that is close to my wife and I. I’ll tell our story, but first lets get in to some explanation about postpartum depression itself.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that one can get after the birth of their child. While it is more common in new mothers, fathers can also experience postpartum depression. Postpartum depression belongs to a wider category of conditions called Postpartum Mood Disorders. These can range from “Baby Blues” all the way to Postpartum Psychosis. We’re going to be diving deeper in to postpartum depression specifically, but it’s good to be aware that there are various different emotional states one can experience after birth.
The following statistics comes from a post on postpartumdepression.org, an excellent resource for parents who have a history of depression or thing they may be experiencing a postpartum mood disorder:
Approximately 70% to 80% of women will experience, at a minimum, the ‘baby blues’. Many of these women will experience the more severe condition of postpartum depression or a related condition.
The reported rate of clinical postpartum depression among new mothers is between 10% to 20%.
One recent study found that 1 in 7 women may experience PPD in the year after giving birth. With approximately 4 million live births occurring each year in the United States, this equates to almost 600,000 postpartum depression diagnoses.https://www.postpartumdepression.org/resources/statistics/
When I first started researching postpartum depression those numbers staggered me. Even more surprising were the statistics about fathers who experience postpartum depression:
Approximately 10% of new fathers experience symptoms of depression during the postpartum period.
Half of men who have partners with postpartum depression will go on to develop depression themselves.https://www.postpartumdepression.org/resources/statistics/
Mothers are not the only ones experiencing this issue. The issue is more widespread. In fact, it’s not limited to biological parents either. Look at the prevalence of PPD in adoptive parents:
One study found that roughly 8% of adoptive parents experienced severe PPD compared to biological mothers in the same study, who experienced PPD at a rate of 16.5%.https://www.postpartumdepression.org/resources/statistics/
The statistics paint a clear picture here. Postpartum Depression is a prolific issue, and it helps to arm ourselves with the facts before our children are born so we can be aware of what we may be up against.
What Causes PPD
There are some key causes of postpartum depression to be aware of. The 3 major causes are:
- Hormones. New mothers experience a flooding of new hormones throughout their body when they go through pregnancy. Their absence can lead to baby blues or depression when those hormones leave a woman’s body after birth.
- History of Depression. New parents who have a history of depression or are genetically predisposed to depression may struggle after birth. Note: prepartum depression also exists, and can also be experienced if one is predisposed.
- Stress. Being a new parent is stressful for so many reasons. This stress can manifest in the form of PPD.
If we make ourselves aware of these causes, we can be on the lookout for factors that may lead to postpartum depression in ourselves or our spouses.
Our Postpartum Depression Story
As I said at the beginning of the post, postpartum depression is an issue that is close to my wife and I. My wife experienced postpartum depression after our son was born. I really wanted to write this article because it has been the hardest thing we faced together. I asked if she was okay with me sharing our story and we agreed that it may help others to be open about our experience.
The first year of parenthood was extremely joyous to my wife and I. However, there was a dark cloud that always floated nearby in the form of postpartum depression. We decided to move 3 states away to be closer to my parents and follow a job opportunity when my son was almost 4 months old. Moving is stressful for anyone, but combine it with the stress of new parenthood, and the hormonal changes my wife was going through, and this is where our trouble with PPD began.
My wife was more hesitant to leave our home than I was, but we both knew it was what was best for our family. Having my parents nearby would help with the baby and the new job I was taking was impossible to pass up. However, I believed that my wife’s sadness was related to the move, and that she would feel better as we started making friends in our new home. That was wrong. I didn’t see what was happening at the time, and I wasn’t attentive enough to her. I didn’t ask about her feelings, and as time went on, she became more depressed.
Things came to a head about 3 months after our move, when our son was 7 months old. My wife wasn’t acting like herself. We would argue about how she was feeling, how I was feeling, and how our lives were going. It got to the point where I questioned if I was the cause of her unhappiness, and how I could help if that were the case. I was afraid I was losing my wife.
In the middle of this, I had to travel for work to different clients for a few weeks in a row. When I stepped off the plane on my first trip, my wife called me in hysterics. She was sobbing, and told me she couldn’t move. She was stuck in bed and our son was sitting in a jumper nearby, also crying. I calmed her down and told her she could stay with my parents until I got home.
As soon as I arrived home, we sought professional help. My wife got a light dose of anti-depressants, and the results were sudden and drastic. The woman that I knew and loved returned. Since then, parenthood has been an amazing season, and while we still have to be wary for signs that she may be “down,” she is doing much better.
I never thought this could happen to us, despite hearing about it in birthing classes and from other parents in our community. We knew that parenthood would be difficult, but we weren’t prepared for PPD. As fathers, it’s important that we are aware of this issue, and of the ways we can help.
How Can we Help as Fathers
What can we do? As new fathers, how can we take action against postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders? Here are some steps you can take:
- Be aware of your partners feelings. Be attentive to your partner during this time. I noticed my wife was sad, but I foolishly assumed it was related to a move and not a deeper issue. Ask about your partner’s feelings regularly.
- Normalize. As a society, we need to normalize mental health in general. This also applies to postpartum mood disorders. Remind your partner that they’re not alone in this, that it’s okay to seek professional help, and that there’s no need to feel guilty because you have a little one.
- Reduce stress. As much as we can, we need to try and reduce stress in our lives after our baby is born. There are so many ways to reduce stress as new parents and you can expect an article about that soon.
- Remember that this is a wider issue. As we saw in the statistics earlier, this issue can affect any new parent. Mom, dad, biological, adoptive, young, old, you name it. That means that as fathers, we too can fall prey to PPD, and we need to be communicative and honest with our spouse about how we’re feeling.
These are just some of the ways that we can help, but remember that we are not alone. Parenthood cannot happen in a void. Reach out to the family and friends. Lean on your community. If you feel you don’t have a community, there are resources online like https://www.postpartum.net/ that has the “Get Help” button on their menu. It has resources for new moms and dads, ranging from hotlines to support groups. You are not alone.
Thank you so much for reading this article. I think postpartum depression is such a prevalent issue and one that fathers need to be aware of. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on this article. If you have a topic you’d like me to cover or you just want to get in touch, you can email me at email@example.com. If you like what you read today and you want some bonus content, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter on our homepage here. Until next time, father on.