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Dads can get postpartum depression too

A man holding a small baby and kissing it on the forehead.

Feb. 4, 2020—It's well known that new mothers can struggle with depression after a baby's birth. But dads are vulnerable to postpartum depression too. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that anywhere between 2% and 25% of dads experience depression during their partner's pregnancy or in the first year after birth.

Without treatment, a dad's postpartum depression can have consequences for the whole family. Depressed dads are less likely to interact with their children in positive ways. Their children may also face a raised risk of emotional and behavioral problems later in life. Postpartum depression can also strain a couple's relationship.

That's why a recent editorial in Pediatrics called for stepped-up screening of postpartum depression in men.

Current guidelines from the AAP advise pediatricians to screen mothers for depression during pregnancy and at their babies' early checkups. Screening for fathers is optional.

The editorial calls for all new parents to be screened for depression so they can get the treatment they need.

Dads at risk

A number of factors can increase a new dad's risk for depression. According to the AAP, they include:

  • Trouble forming an attachment with the baby.
  • Lack of a good male role model.
  • No social support or help from family and friends.
  • Feeling excluded and jealous because of mother-child bonding.
  • Changes in their relationship with their partner—such as a lack of intimacy.
  • Depression in the mom. The rate of dads experiencing depression can go up to 50% if their partner is experiencing perinatal or postpartum depression.
  • Stressed at work or financially.
  • Low testosterone.

Different warning signs

Postpartum depression may look different in men than women. It tends to develop more gradually in men than women. And while moms are more likely to cry easily or report sadness, dads with postpartum depression may be angry and irritable.

If you're a dad who might have postpartum depression, speak up. Ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for help as soon as possible—don't wait until your child's next checkup.

You're not a bad parent—any mom or dad can become depressed after a baby arrives, the AAP emphasizes. Treatment can help you feel like yourself again and care for your baby and partner.

A depression assessment—it's fast and free

Could you—or someone you care for—be depressed? Answering these questions can help you know if there's cause for concern.

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