New fathers get postpartum depression almost as often as new moms, and Dad's depression can have can have lasting effects on the new baby's health and development, according to a new study on postpartum depression in men in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Men are particularly vulnerable to depression in the first three to six months after a baby is born, with about 25 percent of dads having symptoms. About 10 percent of new dads have symptoms of depression before or after the baby arrives, compared to about 30 percent of women, according to the study, which analyzed data from 43 studies on depression in fathers before and after a baby's birth.
The symptoms may be similar to postpartum depression in women, but the causes in men are less hormonal and more related to the big changes in family structure caused by a new baby, including lack of sleep, money worries, and lack of attention from a wife. Depressed dads, like depressed men in general, are more likely than women to display destructive behaviors, including increased use of alcohol or drugs, anger, and risk-taking.
So what's a new dad to do to deal with postnatal depression?
Know the signs. Symptoms of depression in men include sadness, lack of energy, and difficulty concentrating.
Take care of yourself. Men are much less likely than women to seek help for depression. But the responsibilities of fatherhood are a great reason to take care of oneself. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests that men get some exercise, since scientists are learning that regular exercise seems to have some antidepressant properties. Other ways for men to manage their depression symptoms: Go to a movie, a ball game, or engage with friends; above all, be patient with yourself.
Get help as a family. If a new mom is depressed, a new dad is more likely to be struggling, too. If you think your wife needs help, you might want to tag along to the appointment with a primary care provider or therapist, and learn about depression and treatment options. Medication and talk therapy both work. Do it for Junior, Dad.