Today’s new fathers are a generation of men unlike any other: they are sensitive to their children’s needs and firm in their discipline. They are involved in their children’s life. They are more mature. They bring a balance to their children’s life that is essential to their growth and development. These amazing men are worth being celebrated, noticed, and supported.
The adjustments that a man goes through when he and his partner have a baby are as large as that of the mother. The only difference is that for the most part the father’s adjustments and stressors go unnoticed albeit unintentionally. This is not an indictment but a reality. So let’s give dads a bit of TLC and look at Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND).
What is PPND?
Paternal postnatal depression is similar to postnatal depression but experienced by new fathers. Between 3 and 10 % of new dads experience PPND. Depression in any form is not to be taken lightly. PPND can spark up after baby is six-weeks old and get worse in the next six months. If left unchecked or unresolved, PPND can continue for years.
Triggers for PPND?
PPND can be brought on by many factors including family history of depression, partner being depressed, death of a loved one, colicky or crying baby, low self-esteem, and being a dad for the first time. PPND can be further affected by lack of sleep, increased stress, personality, little to no support, grief, and struggling to adjust to being a parent. Of course, these are some of the triggers of PPND but there are many more.
What are the effects of PPND?
PPND affects all areas of a man’s life which can further aggravate his depression. Dads with PPND play less with their children which affects their bond and increases their sense of failure. Their work performance is likely to deteriorate and their job could be in jeopardy. Men with PPND may experience a disconnect between them and their loved ones, especially their spouse. All in all, PPND has a spiral effect which, if left untreated, can be highly damaging and at times even life-threatening.
What is the difference between PPND and daddy blues?
The daddy blues last a couple of weeks often being resolved with some extra sleep, drinks with the guys, or even exercise. PPND on the other hand is chronic, lasts longer than the blues and is accompanied by a sense of helplessness. Nothing you do seems to help. You don’t know how to feel better.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of PPND include:
- Fatigue or apathy
- Changes in appetite
- Sense of hopelessness or helplessness
- Feeling of being trapped
- Feeling inadequate or a failure
- Sense of guilt
- Bouts of rage or anger
- Constant crying
- Overall feeling off and sad
- Working longer hours
- Drinking and smoking more
- Risky behaviours
- Low libido
- Disconnection in relationships
If you are battling with PPND, you may not necessarily experience all of the symptoms described above. Trust yourself. If you don’t feel like yourself, or you can tell something is wrong, get help. You, your children, and your relationships are worth being looked after. Acknowledging that you need help and support is manly and heroic.
Getting professional help is advisable and recommended. However, you will also need support from your loved ones as you heal from PPND.
- Talk to your partner or someone you can trust about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Discuss your expectations vs the reality. Opening up and being vulnerable requires courage but it will go a long way in helping you recover to your normal self. Negotiate with your partner the family responsibilities including household chores, work load, nurturing, providing, and so on.
- See a doctor who can help diagnose what is going on, prescribe any necessary medication or refer you to a professional who can help you.
- Meet other fathers. As much as new mothers need to be around other mothers with babies, so do you. Connect with other dads with young children or babies: you can learn from each other’s experiences and share your insights.
- Keep up with your exercise, hobbies and sport. This will provide a healthy outlet for your tension.
- See a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- Give yourself a break. See the positive: your partner and baby love you; your family and friends care for you. Be kind and gracious to yourself.
Never forget that you are a great dad!!!