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A Father’s Depression

by Maxine
Posted August 4 2011 12:23pm
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We've all heard about women who suffer from postpartum depression or who go through “the baby blues,” but few of us realize that dads often develop postpartum depression too.

"If a woman suffers from postpartum depression her partner is more likely to suffer too,” says Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. "His symptoms frequently appear after mom has already developed symptoms."

Depression is also more common if a new dad has experienced his own previous depression or any of the following circumstances:

  • He has been very anxious during Mom's pregnancy.
  • He has grave concern about Mom's well-being.
  • The couple relationship is strained.
  • He feels so inadequate at baby care that he has trouble bonding with his baby.
  • He has not had a good relationship with his own parents.
  • Or if Mom is also experiencing postnatal depression.

The following list includes signs of depression:

  • Feeling worthless, helpless or without hope
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Feelings of anxiousness, guilt, sadness or grief
  • Preoccupation with finances
  • Withdrawal from the family
  • Irritability
  • Changes in sleep—either insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Change in eating habits—eating more or less than normal
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased interest in sex
  • Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Cynicism
  • Indecisiveness
  • Aggression

If Dad experiences more than three of these symptoms, he should talk to his doctor or therapist who will help him with proper treatment.

Treatment for depression includes:

  • Social support: more emotional and practical support from Mom and others; and increased social support from friends, relatives, peers (for example support groups) or self help groups
  • Individual or couple therapy: family counselling and psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy
  • Medication such as antidepressants and or other treatments

There are other strategies that can help both parents when they are dealing with postpartum depression.

  • Support: Both Mom and Dad should talk about the changes in their lives and how they feel. They should support each other as they adjust to their new roles as parents.
  • Encouragement: Mom, family and friends should offer encouragement as Dad adjusts to his new role. Mom can encourage him to talk to his doctor or therapist if he shows signs of depression.
  • Reassurance: With treatment, Dad’s mood will improve.
  • Discussion: Talk to other new Fathers and parents who can provide support.
  • Being physically active and eating a nutritious diet with good sources of omega 3 fatty acids may also help. Exercise often helps to elevate mood and there is some science that shows omega 3 may help to moderate mood.

Parents can use resources, such as support groups for Fathers with postpartum depression, if they are available in their community.

Here are some helpful websites:
Mood Disorders Association of Ontario - http://www.mooddisorderscanada.ca/
Postpartum Dads - www.postpartumdads.org
Pacific Postpartum Support Society - http://www.postpartum.org

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