This blog is directed to new fathers who are facing the challenges of being a parent and a partner to a new mother who may be dealing with depression. It is not uncommon for women to experience sadness, anxiety, fluctuation of mood and depression after a baby is born. This state is often temporary until hormones return to normal levels. Sometimes however, the emotional distress lingers and both parents are at a loss as to what to do. The usual response is to hope that the depression will pass and if not, to seek help for the mother. I am reaching out to new fathers who are dealing with a partner who is experiencing depression or who may feel depressed themselves.
Depression and sadness is something many new mothers experience shortly after having a baby. There are many reasons for this including fluctuations in hormones and a history of depression. This feeling is not something only new mothers experience, as new fathers are vulnerable to depression as well and often times this is not addressed. Many men feel depressed after the birth of their child and because of an internal imperative to provide and protect, vulnerability is not something men are prone to discuss.
Depression in men after childbirth may occur as a response to a new mother’s depression – not knowing what to do to help their partner who is suffering. Men who face a partner who is depressed sometimes try to cope in ways that may seem counterintuitive such as returning to work sooner than expected and/or working longer hours. When men see their partner suffering from persistent sadness they may feel a strong sense of powerlessness and fear as anything they try to do to alleviate that sadness does not seem to work. A new baby is “supposed” to make parents feel elated but too often new parents are caught by surprise at their sad reaction to this significant change in their lives. It is extremely important for men to understand that their partner’s depression is not something they can fix and they may need help trying to understand their confusing reactions.
Men also may experience depression as a result of acknowledging the increased level of responsibility that a new baby brings upon his/her arrival. Before a baby is born there is much planning and preparation but no one can actually anticipate what it feels like to be completely responsible for another person’s life until it happens. Men may experience powerful urges to protect their new infant and may be caught by surprise by a desire to have their old lives back out of fear of not being up to doing a good job of parenting.
There has been much press and information of late about the physical and mental health of new mothers and thankfully many women have benefitted from the exposure. Men are also prone to depression and deeply confusing emotions after the birth of a child and they require as much attention as new moms. The birth of a child is not a simple event and it has the potential to bring up feelings that many men struggle to manage on their own. If you are a new father and some of what you have just read resonates with you, please give me a call and together we can sort out these feelings and help you develop ways to cope with the dramatic change in your life.