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Postpartum depression has, over the last decade or two, made its way into the vocabulary of all new parents. No longer is this condition widely stigmatized, and most of us know that suffering from PPD is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it's a medical condition that can be overcome, sometimes with self-help and sometimes under the watchful eye of a medical professional, with or without antidepressants. Postpartum depression is definitely something that happens to new mothers only, though — or is it? Can new dads get postpartum depression too?
Postpartum Depression: What Causes That, Again?
You're probably aware of the symptoms of postpartum depression. They may include a lack of interest in the new baby and self-care, negative feelings towards the baby, and concerns that the affected person might hurt their new baby. Then, there are the usual depression symptoms — not enjoying life or anything much, a lack of energy and motivation to engage in day-to-day activities, changes in sleeping patterns and appetite, feelings of worthlessness, and sometimes thoughts of suicide or self-harm. PPD may develop gradually or have a sudden onset.
The Baby Blues can be seen as a very mild form of postpartum depression. This, too, involves mood swings, self doubts, and often crying. Someone afflicted with the Baby Blues may go from being sad to irritable, lack sleep (don't all new parents?), and fail to eat well. This phenomenon is temporary and goes away without treatment. Unlike the Baby Blues, postpartum depression sticks around for longer and frequently requires treatment.
What causes postpartum depression? Much of it is physical. Hormonal changes play a huge role. New mothers' estrogen and progesterone levels go through a rapid drop after they give birth, often along with thyroid hormone levels. They may also have a hard time making a physical recovery from their pregnancy and birth, and struggle with their new body image.
Then, there's the emotional aspect. Caring for a new baby can be challenging, and many new mothers are worried they aren't looking after their little one properly. They may also feel trapped at home, isolated from the dynamic adult world they were used to. Of course, the sleepless nights generally associated with having a newborn baby can also be crazy-making — sometimes literally. Long-term sleep deprivation does nasty things to people.
Well, that argument doesn't quite fly. Involved, active fathers can most definitely face worries about parenthood and their child's future, might suddenly feel extremely pressured to provide for their families while being concerned they won't be able to, and can also certainly suffer from the same amounts of sleep deprivation as their partners. As such, new fathers (and new mothers' female partners) are not immune to postpartum (or "new parent") depression by any means. You might also be interested to hear that new dads do indeed experience hormonal fluctuations. More about that on the next page.