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Dads & Depression: What is Paternal PostNatal Depression?


It’s time we talk about Dads and Depression.

Postpartum mental health issues are the most common complication of pregnancy. Postpartum Depression (PPD) and Anxiety in mothers is finally getting talked about, but postpartum depression in men called Paternal PostNatal Depression, or PPND, is just as common.  

What is PPND? 

A 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that up to 14.1 of men suffer from depression after the birth of their child, especially when there partner is experiencing depression.  Other studies like the one done by the National Institute of Health, also note depression in new dads can affect up to 25% of fathers. The condition is called PPND, or Paternal PostNatal Depression,* and with the amount of depression reported in men as a whole is typically about 5%, PPND is very real. We often attribute Depression in mothers to the obvious biological and hormonal changes experienced after childbirth but hormonal and emotional changes happen to men too. 

*We’re using male non-gender neutral terms here because there have not been significant studies on same sex partners and postpartum complications done yet. The information is still useful of course for same sex partners.

Who is at risk?

PPND can happen to any father but there are also risk factors to know about before baby arrives that may help identify PPND early. These are:

  •  history of depression
  •  partner who has depression 
  •  an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy
  •  poor family relationships and little social support

How can PPND be helped? 

  • Early detection and action is KEY, especially if Dad or Dad’s to be are under significant stress and are predisposed to depression.
  • As reported in the NIH study, men underreport their symptoms. There is still a perceived social stigma to depression so talking about it and normalizing PPND is helpful.
  • Men and partners can take this assessment at to see if they should be evaluated by a professional. 
  • For men at risk, regular exercise, proper sleep and family and social support helps. This includes Paid Leave as noted by the National Institute of Health.
  • A professional assessment by a mental health professional is also recommended. 

As Registered Nurse Elizabeth Hawkes has noted from her experience and research, postpartum mental health issues are 100% manageable with proper intervention and/or medication. Hawkes says, “It’s about time we include the entire family as one unit instead of only asking  ‘How is mom?’ How is baby.'” For mothers and fathers, knowledge is power in managing postpartum mental health complications before they arise.  

Join Elizabeth on Good Morning Washington this Tuesday, Oct 10 for World Mental Health Day as she shares more about Dads and Depression. Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter

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