Men and the baby blues

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: February 16th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Postpartum depression… the feeling of sadness or depression mothers experience following the birth of a child… has been in the news a lot in recent years, thanks largely to celebrities such as Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow, who have publicized their struggles with the condition. But what you may not have known is that postpartum depression isn’t limited to mothers. Some fathers report feeling the so-called baby blues, too.

While the exact prevalence of male postpartum depression isn’t known, a 2005 study of more than twenty-six thousand parents in England found that four percent of fathers described feelings of depression within eight weeks of the birth of their child.

There may be a variety of causes. First, having a baby creates huge changes in any parent’s life, especially when you add in sleepless nights and the stress of caring for a newborn. But the reason may not be strictly psychological. Studies have shown that expectant males may actually experience a drop in testosterone, perhaps to protect the newborn from aggressive behavior. This loss in testosterone may trigger feelings of depression or anxiety.

While male postpartum depression isn’t widely acknowledged, there are places to get help. Most experts believe the condition is easily treated. They recommend both men and women take parenting classes before the birth of the child to ease feelings of anxiety. Devise a caregiving schedule so that chores are shared. And be sure to talk to your partner if you’re feeling down. Those first few months may be overwhelming, but it helps to know you’re not alone.