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When New Moms – or New Dads – Get the Pregnancy Blues

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Most women are familiar with the term post-partum depression.  Start with all the stresses of adding a new member to the family – not just the financial burden, but the schedule upheaval, the sleep deprivation, and the demands of a tiny person who can only make his or her needs known by wailing. Add the wild surge of hormones flooding a woman’s body, and is it any wonder that she might not be the picture of serenity and assurance? Estimates vary on the prevalence but as many as 25 percent of new moms may experience some level of depression either before or after delivery.

That’s bad enough, but now a study suggests that new fathers, just like new mothers, can find themselves overwhelmed when baby makes three (or more).

“The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., found that 10.4% of men experienced serious depression at some point between his partner’s first trimester and one year after childbirth, more than double the depression rate for men in general. American men were more likely to experience prenatal or postpartum depression compared with men in other countries, 14.1% in the U.S. compared with 8.2% internationally.”

What can you do when the guy you depend upon to keep you sane is going through his own blue period?

Your most important step –the one you should take if either you or your partner starts to feel sadness, agitation or hopelessness – is to talk to your doctor. Don’t try to tough it out. Reach out for help at the first signs that something isn’t quite right. It’s possible that all you need to get back to your cheery old selves is a good night’s sleep, but sometimes, you need more. The good news is that help is available. But first, you have to be aware of the signs of depression.

Post-partum depression can be debilitating if you let it go, so take steps immediately to get yourself and your new family back into the swing of enjoying things together again.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH