Postpartum Depression: Not Just For Moms

Psychiatry and Psychology CategoryMore than half of new mothers experience mild and transient mood changes or depression after the birth of a baby, often called the “baby blues.” New mothers may feel irritable, tearful, anxious, or fatigue, and may experience changes in sleep or appetite. These changes are likely caused by hormonal changes in the first few days or weeks following the birth of a child, and most mothers continue to function well despite these symptoms of depression.

However, more severe symptoms can lead to postpartum depression in the weeks or months following the birth of a baby. Studies indicate that 14% of new mothers battle postpartum depression, marked by extreme sadness, low energy, withdrawal from family and friends, a sense of failure, and feelings of guilt. This psychiatric disorder is also associated with marital conflicts, impaired functioning, inadequate bonding with the new baby, and thoughts of killing herself or the baby. Fortunately, postpartum depression is recognized as a serious medical condition and caregivers make powerful efforts to screen mothers for signs and symptoms of depression following the birth of a baby.

Father and BabySadly, fathers’ mental health issues are often ignored after the arrival of a new family member. More than half of new fathers experience symptoms associated with depression, similar to “baby blues,” but it generally passes quickly as fathers and mothers adjust to their new family structure. Still, some fathers have symptoms of depression that persist for more than a few days or weeks or worries and anxieties that surpass common fears about the new role as caregiver, provider, and breadwinner.

Up to 10% of dads experience postpartum depression — twice the rate of men in the general population — but it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Similar to postpartum depression in women, men who are depressed show signs of fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and withdrawal from social situations. However, men are more likely to show signs of anger than women when depressed, and they may also turn to risky, short-term solutions, such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, extending work hours, or seeking extramarital sexual relationships. Compounding the issue of postpartum depression is that men are often discouraged from discussing their emotions or fears, especially at a time when most of their energy is focused on the needs of a new baby and new mother.

Postpartum depression affects the care that the baby receives, and the care that mothers and fathers give to each other and to themselves. Postpartum depression — in men and women — can lead to family dysfunction and insufficient care for the new baby. Mothers and fathers who experience postpartum depression are more likely to engage in reckless or dangerous behavior with their newborn, and less likely to have positive interactions with the child, such as reading, singing, or playing. Thankfully, postpartum depression in men and women is easily treatable once recognized and diagnosed. Through combinations of counseling, behavior modification, or medication therapy, new parents can receive the support and guidance they need to cope with their new roles and make emotional health a family priority.


Paulson, J.F. (2006). Individual and Combined Effects of Postpartum Depression in Mothers and Fathers on Parenting Behavior. PEDIATRICS, 118(2), 659-668. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2005-2948

Dipiro JT, et al. (2002), Pharmacotherapy: A pathophysiologic approach (5th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

  • Thank you so much for this enlightening article.

    Men are often forgotten even more so than mothers in the first few months of a child’s life. It is vitally important to spread the word about the potential for a depressive issue and to remove the stigma of new Dads talking to someone about their feelings.

    Thank you again!


  • JHS

    Very interesting. Never knew about this.

    Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life hosted at Live from Waterloo on Monday, June 2, 2008! Be sure to check out the other excellent entries this week!

  • Pingback: Discovering Dad Blog Carnival - June 2008 | Discovering Dad()

  • Thank you very much for this important article, and for bringing attention to this too often over-looked problem.

    I’m especially glad you mentioned that postpartum depression in men is treatable. For most men, the biggest problem is NOT the depression itself, but the fact that think they should try to go it alone and not get help — and that’s the worst thing they can do. Left untreated, postpartum depression often worsens and can lead to other serious consequences for a man and his family.

    I thought your readers might like to know about a web site for men with postpartum depression: . It’s the only Internet site specifically for new dads with depression, and includes lots of information, an assessment for new fathers to complete, and an online forum for dads to talk with each other.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

    Warm wishes,

    Dr. Will Courtenay

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  • Asyo

    Fathers presumably do not have abrupt hormonal and physiological changes after the birth of their children. They do, however, experience adustment problems due to increased responsibilities, sudden lifestyle changes resulting from the addition of an infant to the family fold, and increased financial burdens.

    • In fact, men DO experience hormonal and physiological changes. Both during pregnancy and early in the postpartum period, men’s hormones change. And it’s a double-whammy. Not only do men’s estrogen levels go up, but at the same time, their testosterone levels go down. That means fewer male hormones and more female hormones coursing though their bodies. And there is some recent research that links low testosterone levels and depression in men.

      These aren’t the only hormonal changes that occur in men right before – and after – a baby is born. Changes also occur in the men’s levels of prolactin, cortisol, & vasopressin. These hormonal changes can wreak havoc on a man’s life, and are theorized to help set the stage for postpartum depression fathers.

      Additionally, fathers – like mothers – often experience physiological changes that result from lack of sufficient sleep, which influence brain functioning.

      For more information, see

      Dr. Will Courtenay

  • Fathers presumably do not have abrupt hormonal and physiological changes after the birth of their children. They do, however, experience adustment problems due to increased responsibilities, sudden lifestyle changes resulting from the addition of an infant to the family fold, and increased financial burdens.

  • Pingback: Postnatal depression, masculinity and recovery | Mad World()

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD

Jennifer Gibson, PharmD, is a practicing clinical pharmacist and medical writer/editor with experience in researching and preparing scientific publications, developing public relations materials, creating educational resources and presentations, and editing technical manuscripts. She is the owner of Excalibur Scientific, LLC.

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