A recent University of Michigan study of over 1,700 new fathers found that a significant percentage of them showed the same symptoms of depression that new mothers showed after having a baby. Study leader Dr. Neal Davis also found that 40 percent of the depressed men spanked their children aged one year or younger, compared to 13 percent of non-depressed fathers. Seven percent of the men in the study described themselves with symptoms that indicated depression.
While men don’t have the physiological changes to cope with that women with newborn babies do, they frequently undergo other dramatic shifts. New financial burdens, a changed relationship with the newborn’s mother, and lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking affect a new father’s outlook.
Dr. Craig Garfield, assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, said that the study raised awareness of male postpartum depression. Garfield noted that 77 percent of new fathers suffering from depression talked at least once to their child’s pediatrician within that first year, representing an opportunity for pediatricians to open a dialogue with these men about their state of mind.
Chris Illuminati, a writer with a one-year-old child who acknowledged feeling postpartum depression, found it difficult to talk to others about it. He noticed his depression while reading brochures given to his wife and mentally checking “yes” answers to the self-assessment depression questionnaires. “I felt like a wuss if I mentioned it to anyone,” Illuminati said. Doctors who remain aware of the possibility of postpartum depression in men can help overcome that reluctance, said Dr. Garfield.
The study was released in the April edition of the journal Pediatrics available online March 14.