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Postpartum Depression Isn’t Just a “Mom Thing”


Are you a new dad and feeling a mixture of joy, fear, and confusion? You’re not alone. In fact, it’s very common for new dads to feel overwhelmed or even depressed after the birth of their new baby.

In today’s culture, mental health and postpartum depression focus on the mother, which people should take very seriously. But often, as a result, many fathers are left in the background, struggling in silence.

But thanks to the work of the Father’s Feelings Study from the Institute of Family and Community Impact, we’ve been able to peel back the layers that go into fatherhood and see how that transition can impact an individual’s mental health.

At the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, we are committed to investing in healthy families, including dads, by providing information and services that reduce the risk of abuse and neglect. We want to let new fathers know that they are not alone in feeling overwhelmed, stressed and unsure about the responsibility of parenting.

The Chemistry of Fatherhood

Studies have shown that there’s about a 10% occurrence of depression symptoms in new dads. The risk is even higher for dads whose spouse is also struggling with postpartum depression — according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the
rate of occurrence can increase to 50%.

Postpartum depression in women is believed to be primarily caused by hormonal fluctuations from birth. Scientific studies have also shown that men can also experience sympathetic pain for those around them, resulting in their own hormonal changes.

Studies show that a man's hormones can also shift during their partner’s pregnancy and after birth, for reasons researchers are still trying to figure out. Testosterone levels drop, and estrogen, prolactin, and cortisol go up. Some new fathers even experience symptoms like nausea and weight gain.

At the end of the day, whether it is a father or mother experiencing postpartum depression, it can take a severe toll on the family's wellbeing, specifically their newborn child’s. It is important to educate ourselves on the signs of postpartum depression and seek help if you or someone you love needs it.

Signs of Postpartum Depression in New Fathers

  • Consistently feeling frustrated or irritable
  • Experiencing an increase in headaches, digestion problems, or pain
  • Having trouble concentrating on simple tasks
  • Feeling fatigue or a lack of motivation
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Violent behavior
  • Impulsivity and recklessness
  • Thoughts of suicide

How to Get Help

Luckily, postpartum depression is common and treatable. If you or someone you know is struggling, getting help from a licensed mental health professional is a critical first step. Seeking out support groups, whether online or in person, is also helpful, as they provide facts and community resources from other people with similar experiences.

If you are interested in sharing your experience with others, the Father’s Feelings Study is a great avenue to do so while also helping inform others who come after you.

The study allows dads to share their thoughts and feelings about their baby and their lives as parents. It also provides ideas for strengthening father-child bonds. All you have to do is go through a few short questionnaires and virtual visits with the Father’s Feelings study staff, and you can help future dads prepare for the joys and challenges of fatherhood while enriching your own experience.

Participants are eligible for a $25 gift card for completing the study and receive father-specific consultation, insights, and resources from the Institute of Family and Community Impact’s highly trained study staff.

Currently, all studies are being conducted virtually through videoconferencing. Online forms are available through the Research Portal.

Brittany Pope, Director of applied Clinical Sciences and Research, OhioGuideStone - discusses the new Father's Feeling program.