New dads and depression

We hear about postpartum depression in moms all the time.  We hear about it on the nightly news when things go really bad, we read about it in Us Weekly when a celebrity talks about her post-baby experiences, and good ob/gyns and pediatricians screen for it in new moms.  But where do the dads fit in?  Do they ever suffer from depression after their new little one arrives? You bet.

While the cause of new dad depression can’t be blamed on hormone swings and post-delivery discomfort, it still exists.   Just as moms struggle to get used to the challenges a baby brings, so do dads.  Over the years I have heard many concerns of new dads.  Some the same and some different from the concerns of new moms.  Some of the most common include:

  • How am I going to financially support my growing family?
  • How can I connect with my baby when he is being breastfed by his mom?  Where is my place with a newborn?
  • I find my baby boring, I thought being a dad would be more fun.
  • I miss my wife, she is so pre-occupied with the baby she doesn’t have time for me.
  • I don’t want to make the same parenting mistakes my dad and mom made.
  • I miss my freedom.  Will I ever get it back?
  • I am freaking exhausted!

So what can families do to help support new dads struggling with mood changes? Perhaps the most important thing is to find someone to talk to.  Another family member or friend who has been through the newborn baby stage might be a good bet.  If that doesn’t work, a few visits to a mental health professional may be helpful.   Pediatricians and primary care providers can often provide good referrals.

Just as with new moms, time away from dad and husband duties can be rejuvenating.  Reinstating “boys night out” or nightly weightlifting sessions can be good for the mind and body.  Talking openly with the baby’s mom about struggles and concerns is also advisable.  And as with postpartum depression in moms, dads with depression should be monitored for significant changes in mood or anxiety levels so that appropriate treatment can be undertaken.