Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Depressive symptoms that last longer than two weeks after your baby is born are a sign of something serious and should be brought to the attention of a doctor.
Symptoms associated with both PPND and PPD include:
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Weight loss or gain that is significant
- Fatigue and/or loss of energy and/or motivation
- Sleep issues, including insomnia and sleeping too much
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or hopelessness
- Severe anxiety
- Inability to focus and concentrate
- Racing thoughts
- Feelings of suicide or self-harm
There are also symptoms of PPND specific to men and may indicate severe PPND. These may include:
- Irritability, impulsivity, and/or anger
- Physical symptoms, including sexual dysfunction, backache, headaches and digestive problems
- Violent/aggressive behavior
- Avoidance behavior
- Substance abuse
Each new father will experience PPND differently. Anything that doesn’t seem right for you, out of your character, or unhealthy or scary should be something to be concerned about, and you should seek out help.
How to Find Help With Postpartum Depression
The first and most important step to getting help is talking to your partner and other loved ones, and simply admitting you are struggling. Many men are not used to talking about their feelings, especially with the women in their lives, and this is something that must change for you to get the help you need.
The next step is finding a doctor or therapist who can assess your symptoms and prescribe a treatment plan. Many men can benefit from talk therapy and support groups, while others may need to add medication to their treatment plan.
Self-care is important for both parents in the first several weeks after the birth of their child.
Make sure you are making time for yourself – whether you are working out or hanging with friends. No matter what you are doing, take the time to enjoy activities that made you happy before you became a dad.
How to Cope With Parental Postpartum Depression
There are many useful ways to manage the stresses of fatherhood and manage the symptoms of PPND. Here is how to cope:
Remind Yourself What It Is All About
When you are sleep-deprived and dealing with needs of a crying baby, it can help to remind yourself why you wanted to be a father in the first place. Write these things down and read them when you are feeling overwhelmed.
Change Your Inner Dialogue
What you say to yourself has a huge impact on your mood. When you are feeling stressed and upset because your child is crying, try something like, “She a baby and needs me to be calm and collected so I can better meet her needs.”
Being a parent is stressful and overwhelming, which can lead to loneliness and isolation. Therefore, it is important to connect with others, including your spouse, extended family, other dads, or a religious leader.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep can be in short supply with a new baby, but good and plentiful rest is especially important for new parents suffering from PPND or PPD. One study out of the University of Sussex finds sleep is key in preventing depression in new parents.
You can improve sleep by napping with your little one for up to 30 minutes a day to boost alertness. Other ways to improve sleep include avoiding caffeine after 4 pm, going to bed at the same time every night and waking up in the morning at the same time, avoiding heavy meals and exercising too close to bedtime, and keeping electronics out your bedroom.
Focus on Your Parenting
Thoughts and worries about your parenting can overwhelm you. Some ways to boost your confidence include reading parenting books and articles, talking to experienced fathers, or attending parenting classes.
Remember, You Matter
Research shows fathers are important to their children’s development, including protecting them from emotional problems and distress when they are young, helping them do better in school and even leading to other mental and emotional health benefits. Therefore, your emotional health is important to your children’s well-being and so are you.
Paternal postnatal depression is a very serious condition, and without treatment, it can cause long-term consequences for the father, his child and his entire family. Proper treatment, good support, and effective coping can help fathers recover from PPND.
Men shouldn’t simply have to get over depression. Get help and find the strength and courage to get your life back on track and to be the best father you can be.