Postpartum Depression Spotlight Shifts To Include Dads

My first reaction when I read that new dads are being diagnosed with a form of postpartum depression was: Oh no, can’t we even have our own disorder without men getting into the picture? And my second was: Now that the disorder is finally gaining attention in the media and the healthcare community, men are squeezing their way in, too.

But, I’ve adopted new attitudes and beliefs, since I’ve returned from the Postpartum Support, International Conference. After seeing tapes of men sobbing and with many of the same symptoms as women with PPD, I have changed my mind. I prefer the diagnostic label of Paternal Postnatal Depression (PPND), rather than Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) or Postpartum Depression (PPD), as I reserve that diagnosis for women with specific symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic or OCD, following childbirth.

And after all, anything that shines a spotlight on a condition that affects 800,000-900,000 American women annually deserves as much attention as it can garner. Surely, this focus will help lead to more women being diagnosed and treated earlier, rather than later.

The report I read comes from the Portland-Vancouver area where Sam Stevens, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Portland, concluded, “It turns out, dads suffer from postpartum depression. While they didn’t technically give birth, that doesn’t mean it isn’t really hard. It doesn’t mean they don’t get depressed.”

Stevens says, the precursors that make a person more likely to have postpartum depression are the same, and that those who have a history of mental health difficulties, such as depression and anxiety, are more likely to experience those difficulties after a baby is born. I certainly agree with him on that conclusion.

Additionally, “people with poor social connections — feeling isolated and lacking support from family or friends — people who are facing other stressors — such as financial worries or marital problems — and people with demanding or colicky babies, are more likely to experience depression.” Very true.

Here’s where men enter the picture with some interesting statistics: “Having a spouse who is depressed also makes one more likely to become depressed. Research shows about 11 percent of men have postpartum depression, but 50 percent of men whose wives are depressed are depressed themselves.” Stevens points to cultural changes as a possible culprit. “Historically, dads were the provider and the protector, and that’s all they did, but now, men face expectations to be a loving, caring and compassionate father and husband, and they’re fulfilling tasks that were once considered “mom roles.”

Despite my initial misgivings, I champion these positive actions from the same Portland-Vancouver area: Peter Reagan, a retired family physician, and his wife, Bonnie, also a retired physician, who is a volunteer with Baby Blues Connection, a nonprofit mom-to-mom support service, teamed up with Stevens to develop a monthly men’s support group and will soon launch the dads’ program with a free community event to educate men and women about paternal postpartum depression. Again, anything constructive that sheds light on PPD/PMAD and  brings more information to the public about postpartum depression is a win-win.

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~ by ppdsus on June 23, 2013.

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