Birth of a New Baby; The Implication of Post Partum Depression in Men

It is anticipated more than 18.8 million Americans will suffer from some level of depression this year. Of these, 14% of women suffer from post partum depression and an astounding 10% of men suffer from the same post partum depression symptoms following the birth of a child. Often misdiagnosed or under diagnosed, the implication of post partum depression on men, their wives and new babies, are significant as studies have shown most newborn children exhibiting emotional distress may, in part, be attributed to a father’s missed opportunity for post partum depression treatment. For mothers-to-be, the importance of understanding post partum depression in not only the female body but also the male body will ensure for a happier birthing and child raising experience.

For women who suffer from post partum depression, the symptoms are quite common and may include sadness, fatigue, unexplainable crying and, in some cases, feelings of suicide. However, in men, the post partum depressions symptoms are quite different. Men, taught at an earlier age to hide their feelings, may believe the sadness or frustration they feel will dissipate as quickly as it arrived. However, when a new father exhibits symptoms of anxiety, irritability, anger, isolation and excessive worry, these may be symptoms of post partum depression in the new father.

For a new mother, it is often difficult and overwhelming to manage personal hormonal changes, care for a new baby and also monitor the care of a husband. However, to ensure proper family development, including the emotional care of a newborn, it is imperative that new mothers remain aware and assist their husband in identifying the symptoms of post partum depression and seek treatment, if needed.

Treatment of post partum depression, in men, is quite similar to that of women. Generally, a family practitioner will take a complete health history and may run blood laboratory work to rule out other causal factors such as anemia or a thyroid disorder. When all other conditions are ruled out, a low dose anti-depressant may be administered in addition to a recommendation for a counseling session with someone who specializes in post partum depression in men. For most men, the concept of therapy and medication to treat depressive symptoms seems rather unnatural to their male instincts. Even so, a new father should be encouraged to visit a healthcare professional to, at least, consider the optional treatments available.

Prior to birth, a mother-to-be may begin exploring father-baby support groups. Quite often support groups are offered as “men only” and allow for an opportunity for new fathers to meet other men with the same emotional experiences attributed to the birth of a new baby. In contrast to male only support groups, many support groups exist in the form of play sessions in which newborn babies will accompany the new father to a play group and a trained instructor will engage dad and baby in a variety of play activities. The play group’s concept works to foster and encourage this same playtime at home thereby encouraging fathers through the transition of childbirth and allowing an opportunity for bonding and, thereby, naturally working to resolve the post partum depression so often overlooked in many new fathers.

For information on support groups for new fathers, visit www.newsforparents.org or www.postpartum.net

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