If you assumed postpartum depression (PPD) was a “woman’s disease,” you’re not alone: Scientists used to think it was caused by hormone shifts after birth, and therefore only affected women. It is now seen as a result of the sleep deprivation, increased responsibility and lifestyle changes that go along with having a baby — and has been proven to affect men as well. (In fact, researchers from the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA, recently found that approximately 10 percent of new dads suffer from paternal prenatal and postpartum depression.) “It’s a particularly vulnerable time,” says Deirdre Ryan, consultant psychiatrist for the Reproductive Mental Health Program at B.C. Women’s Hospital. Men with wives who have PPD or a history of mental illness are at a higher risk. Anyone can get grumpy changing diapers on three hours of sleep, so how can you tell the difference between a bad day and a serious mental-health issue? Here are five warning signs he might be in over his head.
He’s depressed Everyone’s down in the dumps occasionally, but if he never sees baby as a little bundle of joy, it’s time to worry. “Men [with PPD] have a lack pleasure, and they lack enjoyment in the baby,” says Ryan “The baby’s seen as a source of overwhelming responsibility or worry.”
He’s anxious “In PPD, depression symptoms are associated with anxiety symptoms,” Ryan says. Men will check on their little ones too often, or become consumed with fears about finances. The worry is recurrent and surrounds parenting, says Ryan. “He’ll think, ‘Am I a good enough father?’ ‘Am I doing the right things?’”
He can’t sleep Exhaustion goes hand-in-hand with a new bundle, but there’s a difference between being tuckered because baby’s keeping him up and being too anxious to sleep. “Every man is going to be sleep deprived, but a hallmark [of PPD] is that a person can’t sleep even when the baby’s asleep,” says Ryan. “He’s lying awake, worrying about the baby or finances.”
He’s withdrawn Men might display depression differently than women do, says James Paulson, lead researcher on the Eastern Virginia Medical School study. “Some experts have suggested men might be more likely to show depression through irritability, anger, withdrawal or disconnection from the family.”
He’s eating (or drinking) more Eating much more or less than usual is another sign he could have PPD. And increasing his consumption of alcohol is a less subtle red flag.
If you suspect your husband has PPD, encourage him to come with you to your next doctor’s appointment. “People may need a bit of extra support, cognitive therapy or medication,” says Ryan. If he’s not convinced, tell him PPD has been shown to affect children’s development. “This is a problem that affects both parents, the child and the family as a whole,” says Paulsen.