Can dads get post natal depression?

In 2010, due to a large scale cohort study, the public was introduced to the idea of post natal depression in dads.  The study, which looked at patterns in more than 86,957 mother/father/child triads, found that just under four percent of dads experienced depression in the first 12 months after the birth of a baby.

Some people were shocked by the idea.  Surely, post natal depression was related to a change in hormones after the birth of a baby? How could a man’s psychological and physiological experiences of the birth of a baby, parallel that of a mother’s?  To unpick whether postnatal depression as it is known in women, can manifest in men, it’s helpful to take a closer look at the former.

First of all, what we are talking about here is not the “baby blues.”  The baby blues are the tearful and anxious feelings many women experience after birth, where the mom feels a bit down and melancholy.  They do not last more than a couple weeks. Post natal (or post partum) depression on the other hand is a major depressive episode occurring during pregnancy or the weeks or months following delivery. In these depressive episodes, which must last longer than two weeks, a mom will experience a number of the following – she may no longer take pleasure from the activities she once enjoyed, have difficulties sleeping, experience very low energy and may have continual feelings of low self worth.  For further information on the symptoms of postpartum depression, you can look here. If you do, you may notice that nowhere does it say that postnatal or postpartum depression is caused by the changing hormones in a mother. Certainly lack of sleep, abrupt change in life circumstances and responsibilities are likely to affect both parents.  With this perspective, a diagnosis of depression with an onset during pregnancy or after the birth of a child, appears both relevant and appropriate for both moms and dads.



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