What Is Male Postpartum Depression?

Male postpartum depression symptoms

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that occurs after the birth of a child. While it’s often experienced by mothers, it can also be experienced by fathers.

Men may not experience the pain of childbirth or need physical recovery, but the presence of a new child is a major life change. Fathers, like mothers, need to pay attention to their mental health. Exhaustion and stress, in addition to other factors, can lead to male postpartum depression. 

Symptoms

Feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed following the birth of a child is a normal aspect of parenthood. Still, if symptoms persist or if they interfere with daily life or the ability to care for the child, then it could be postpartum depression. This is true for both mothers and fathers.

Many postpartum depression symptoms are synonymous with a major depressive disorder. Symptoms vary from person to person. You may experience some, not all, and they can vary in degree. 

For men experiencing paternal depression, these are some common symptoms:

Irritability, indecisiveness, and a limited range of emotions are also common symptoms experienced by men with postpartum depression.

Diagnosis

Women are often screened by their doctor for postpartum depression, but men typically aren’t. They are also more likely to underreport their symptoms, which is why postpartum depression in men can go undiagnosed and untreated.

If you’re a new father experiencing persistent and ongoing symptoms of depression, you’ll want to notify your partner, doctor, and/or mental health professional. Depression doesn’t go away on its own, so the sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and relieve symptoms.

The diagnostic process may include clinical questioning, often using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), and/or the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). The healthcare professional will rule out physical conditions that could cause depression or other underlying mental health conditions before making a diagnosis. 

Because there's a stigma associated with men and their mental health, especially when it comes to postpartum depression, it’s important for men to speak up and seek professional help when symptoms arise and especially when those symptoms continue for an extended period of time. 

Treatment

Treatment for postpartum depression is similar to treatment for clinical depression. Depending on your situation and the severity of your depression, you may be prescribed medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly used medications for postpartum depression. Antidepressants and other medications may also be considered for men with postpartum depression.

If the medication causes unwanted side effects or if the depression worsens, you’ll want to notify your healthcare provider to make adjustments or find alternative treatment options.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are psychotherapies known to relieve symptoms of postpartum depression, but most men prefer individual or couples therapy which can help relieve symptoms.

No matter the preferred treatment, men can benefit from support groups or educational classes, especially if they’re partner is also suffering from postpartum depression or if they’re lacking support from friends, family, or community members. For best success, father-tailored models of care should be considered.

Causes

Approximately 8% of fathers experience paternal depression. Unfortunately, many cases of postnatal depression go undiagnosed in men so early diagnosis and intervention are important for the health of the father and the family.

Many factors can contribute to the development or worsening of postpartum depression, including but not limited to:

  • History of depression or anxiety 
  • Other mental health concerns, such as substance misuse
  • Low or lack of social support 
  • Low income or financial stress 
  • Relationship with mother
  • Postpartum depression in mother
  • Young paternal age
  • Living in a separate household from the child

Postpartum depression can manifest differently for men than women. Extending work hours, withdrawing from the family, or losing interest in activities could all be signs that mental health support is needed. 

Prognosis

Postpartum depression often excludes men, even though fathers can experience the disorder and many do. When male postpartum depression goes undiagnosed, it can harm the whole family. 

A father's depression can impact the child’s development and increase the child’s risk of developing a psychiatric disorder in early childhood. It can also cause disharmony in their relationship with the mother and in extreme cases, can lead to anger, aggression, or violent behavior.

Following the birth of a child, fathers experience hormonal changes, says Hannah Tishman, LCSW at Cobb Psychotherapy, and they often feel heightened pressures related to finances and their career.

The focus of the household also changes, impacting new fathers. Before having a child, the man may have been the primary focus of their partner, Tishman explains, but this changes, and the mother often bonds quickly with the child and this can make the father feel left out. Adding in lack of intimacy, lack of sleep and guilt around the inability to bond with the baby can make fathers feel worse.

Fathers don’t often get the same support as mothers following the birth of a child and may experience feelings of resentment, neglect, or unreasonable gender expectations.

Like mothers, fathers need a strong support system throughout the perinatal period and in the early stages of parenthood. 

Coping

When men suffer from postpartum depression, it can impact their ability to function and properly care for their partner and child. 

In addition to maintaining healthy self-care habits, which can include meditation or therapy, Tishman recommends:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Maintaining healthy sleep habits
  • Talking about and expressing feelings

For men, it may be difficult to ask for help, especially when their partner is going through so many changes and needs their support.

While it’s important to care for your partner and child following childbirth, fathers need to recognize their own mental health needs and find healthy ways to cope with symptoms of depression. Talking to a therapist or joining a support group of other fathers can help. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

A Word From Verywell

Male postpartum depression can go undiagnosed for many months or years, but it’s easily treatable. If you’re a new father experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your primary care physician or a mental health professional. 

If your loved one expresses concern over your mental health, then it’s important to seek professional help so you can better care for yourself, your partner, and your new child. 

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6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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