New dads have it rough

New fathers have it pretty rough. The baby and mother get all the attention, leading to feelings of abandonment and possibly resentment of the new interloper. Subtly or overtly, many moms and grandmothers shunt aside new fathers as they swoop in to take care of baby, leaving dad feeling feckless and incompetent.  On top of it, the pressure to provide for a child hits home. Combine these feelings with a lack of sleep and a steep new fatherhood learning curve, and you have a recipe for turbulence. 

While the occurrence of Postpartum Depression (PPD) and anxiety in new moms is fairly well known and discussed -- though still mostly undiagnosed-- PPD can occur in new dads as well. Some studies report that one in ten new fathers experience PPD! Surprised? Unfortunately, the vast majority of new fathers get neither diagnosed nor help for their symptoms.

The symptoms of PPD can look different in men and women, with men often becoming withdrawn, perhaps distancing themselves by working longer than necessary hours at work, or by exhibiting greater irritability and lashing out in anger. Women more frequently have symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, bouts of crying, a sense of helplessness and of feeling overwhelmed. In either case, the ramifications for a new family can be severe and troubling if left unaddressed.

During the transition from pregnancy to new parenthood, many fathers feel that  they have to be "the strong one" to support their partners through the difficult physical and emotional adjustment period that comes with giving birth. Unfortunately, new fathers often neglect their own well being in the process. 

So what can be done if you are a new father who doesn't feel like yourself and may be depressed? Here are four suggestions:

  1. Check in regularly with your partner. Share what it's been like during this time. Sometimes just getting the feelings off your chest can be a huge relief. Make a point of taking at least a few minutes every day to talk. Send texts or emails when you're apart during the day. Don't stop communicating.
  2. Reach out to other new dads through meet ups, support groups or friends that are new parents. Commiserating with other guys can really help to avoid feeling isolated and it's helpful to know that you are not alone. There are parenting listservs in most neighborhoods in New York City, check out groups.yahoo.com to search for one in your area. 
  3. Take care of your needs. Rest, exercise, and eat well. You are no good to anyone if you are tired and burned out.
  4. Finally, consider getting professional help if your symptoms don't seem to be getting better after a few weeks. Talking over your experiences and feelings with someone neutral can make a big difference and can help you enjoy this time as a new family.

Postpartum Depression: The Silent Epidemic

Postpartum Depression: The Silent Epidemic

First published in A Child Grows In Brooklyn

Did you know that one in seven mothers experience postpartum depression, but that most suffer in silence, never seeking help or support?  Despite the number of celebrities such as Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Bryce Dallas Howard who have spoken publicly about their bouts with PPD, many women still think it’s shameful to feel down after the birth of a child. Not so.

PPD should not be confused with the “baby blues.” While a woman may experience a short period of tearfulness, irritability, and frustration soon after giving birth, the baby blues do not interfere with a mom’s ability to care for her baby or herself. PPD, on the other hand, can be severe. Women suffering from PPD typically report feeling hopeless, angry, worthless, guilty, and/or anxious starting around 4-6 weeks postpartum. Some women may experience panic attacks or become obsessive about such things as germs or the baby’s health. The condition can become so intense that it interferes with a woman’s desire and ability to bond with her baby. A good rule of thumb is if a mom is not feeling herself by the time of her six week postpartum check-up, then it’s time to get help.

Because of mom’s central role in the life of her child and family, PPD can have unfortunate consequences. Not only is mom’s ability to function at home and work compromised, babies with depressed mothers have been shown to have diminished cognitive development and are more prone to forming an insecure attachment to their mothers.  As they get older, the children of depressed mothers may have language delays, behavior problems, and social impairments.

No one knows for sure what causes PPD, but there are some environmental and genetic predictors for postpartum depression, including a poor support system, marital conflict, a personal or family history of depression, a colicky or difficult baby, financial difficulties, closely spaced births and a traumatic birth experience.

While PPD is common and debilitating, the good news is that it is very treatable, particularly when caught in its early stages.  If you think you or a loved one may have PPD, the first thing to do is to rule out physical causes by getting a thorough medical check-up.  Thyroid dysfunction and anemia can sometimes mimic the symptoms of PPD.  Next, get help.  Therapy, combined with medication if necessary, has been proven extremely effective in treating PPD. Look for practitioners who specialize in treating PPD and who understand the unique needs of new moms.

In addition, rally all the support you can. Ask your friends, family, or neighbors for assistance. Make things easier on yourself by hiring help, if possible. A doula, for example, can offer support, comfort, and a hand around the house. Avoid isolation by seeking out PPD-related support groups and blogs.  And lastly, take time to care for yourself: go outside, do some gentle exercise, and rest. By accepting your condition and seeking the proper help, you will be able to be the mom you want to be, sooner rather than later.

 

Links to information:

The Postpartum Stress Center (postpartumstress.com),

Postpartum Support International (postpartum.net),

Postpartum Resource Center of New York (postpartumny.org)

Postpartum Progress, A Survivor’s Blog (postpartumprogress.com)

 

- See more at: http://www.achildgrows.com/the-silent-epidemic-postpartum-depression/#sthash.kCJK6qbi.dpuf