Can Dads Get Postpartum Depression?

By Kelly Burch 04/20/18

Researchers examined whether postpartum depression also affects men for a recent study.

father holding newborn baby

Postpartum depression is the most common pregnancy complication for American women, but moms might not be alone in experiencing the condition.

In fact, fathers might also experience postpartum depression tied to hormonal fluctuations after having a child. 

According to a study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, fathers with "dipping levels" of testosterone are more likely to become depressed after their child is born.

The study built on previous work indicating that fathers also experience biological changes following the birth of a child. 

"We often think of motherhood as biologically driven because many mothers have biological connections to their babies through breastfeeding and pregnancy,” said Darby Saxbe, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of psychology at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, according to Science Daily. "We don't usually think of fatherhood in the same biological terms. We are still figuring out the biology of what makes dads tick.”

In a recent interview with The Washington Post, Saxbe added, “Our findings suggest a potential biological and hormonal correlate of depression during the postpartum period.”

Many men don’t even know this is a condition that they might experience. This was true for Adam Elmaghraby, who believes he experienced postpartum depression after his now three-year-old daughter was born. 

“Shortly after my daughter was born, I started feeling anxious. My mind would swirl, and I felt out of control. I didn’t have enough time for myself, parenting and my professional life,” he said to the Washington Post.

Although he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, Elmaghraby’s doctor never mentioned a connection between his mental health and his daughter’s birth. “My therapist never addressed the possibility of postpartum depression with me. Luckily, a few friends mentioned that the illness could also affect men,” he told the Post

Sheehan Fisher, a clinical psychologist and researcher at Northwestern University, said it’s important to address postpartum depression among men because it can have lifelong consequences for both father and child. 

“We know depression can impact the father-child relationship, as well as children’s future behavior,” he said, according to the Post.

Elmaghraby said that speaking openly with friends and other fathers helped him overcome his depression to become the parent he wants to be. 

“As fathers, we don’t always receive the same cultural ‘hooray’ as mothers, and that’s okay,” he said. “Still, we should examine and honor what fatherhood means to us. Stepping into parenthood is humbling work, and it’s important to ask for support along the way.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.