WellMama Resource Guide: Men’s Postpartum Issues
Our culture tends to recognize the stresses of being a new mother: managing the lack of sleep, establishing breastfeeding, handling hormone changes, balancing home life with a career, finding your stride as a parent. But the challenges of becoming a new father are less recognized, less understood, and certainly less studied.
This section of the WellMama Resource Guide will focus on men’s postpartum issues: dealing with postpartum depression, supporting a partner with depression, and learning how to connect with your partner now that baby is in the picture, too. If you would like to contribute to the WellMama Resource Guide, please email resource guide volunteer Mandy Lindgren.
“There’s a cultural myth that men don’t get depressed, and it’s so powerful that even trained clinicians are less likely to correctly diagnose depression in men than in women,” explains Will Courtenay, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and leading expert on postpartum depression in men (Men’s Health 2011). Men undergo similar hormone changes to mothers. Testosterone levels decrease, estrogen levels increase, and prolactin levels (associated with breastfeeding moms) also go up in men (Men’s Health 2011). Add the cultural myth that men should hide their feelings and just need to “man up,” and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Pregnancy and postpartum mental health disorders are common, treatable medical conditions. 1 in 5 women will experience distressing emotional reactions during pregnancy and the first year after childbirth. 50% of men with a partner struggling with postpartum depression also have the disorder. As a father, supporting a partner with postpartum depression is crucial to her treatment and getting better. A healthy mom contributes to a healthy family.
According to researchers Philip Cowan and Carolyn Pap Cowan from the University of California-Berkeley, most couples say they are less satisfied with their marriages after having children (Kruger 2003). But a few small adjustments can help make connecting with a partner after pregnancy less challenging so you can tackle everything that comes your way.
Nick grew up in southern California and now lives in Springfield, Oregon. He works as a wine merchandiser for Southern Wine and Spirits and plays bass guitar in the local band Wanibra. He and his girlfriend had their first child in May 2010. After researching their options, they chose to have a home birth with a licensed direct-entry midwife. Their son, Vryce, was born at home four weeks early without complications.
Recently, my wife asked me to write about my experiences with parenthood and the ongoing postpartum depression she has suffered since the birth of our first child. To be honest, I have found that to be an onerous task – not because I don’t have enough to say, but because I struggle with how to express my observations in a meaningful way. I know what it is that she has struggled with on an intellectual level and have even mourned and grieved over it with her. Ultimately though, I haven’t directly experienced what she has experienced, so my understanding of what it is to suffer depression of that sort only extends so far. Rather than comment on what she has felt, I think it would be more honest to express the anxiety and struggles I’ve had as an intimate witness to my wife’s battle with depression.
The Postpartum Dads’ Project focuses on the male experience during the postpartum period with the goal of collecting stories from dads about their experience with depression – either personal or their partner’s experience.
PostpartumMen is a website just for fathers who are experiencing symptoms of postpartum anxiety and depression, which is often called paternal postnatal depression.