Traditionally seen as a condition that only affects women, researchers estimate that 4 to 25 percent of men experience postpartum depression (or PPD) in the first two months following childbirth1, and that number increases to 68% over the first five years in fathers around age 252. Younger fathers were more at risk of developing paternal PPD if they lived in the same home as their children.
The scope of paternal PPD is still being studied as initial research used diagnostic criteria for maternal PPD to examine paternal PPD and more accurate tools are still being developed to test and measure symptoms of PPD in men. Thankfully, the range of studies and research has increased in the past few years as scientists work to understand PPD better in both men and women.
Depression symptoms in fathers are often similar to those experienced by women affected by PPD (e.g., general depressive symptoms such as sadness, fatigue, appetite changes, feelings of worthlessness, and/or negative feelings or lack of concern for themselves or the baby) but PPD can often present quite differently in men. Sudden outbursts of anger or irritability, impulsiveness (e.g., drinking too much, overeating, pursuing an affair), and immersing themselves in work can all be signs of PPD. Many men characterize these feelings as experiencing a sudden loss of control of their lives, which can lead to erratic behavior not commonly associated with depression.
One major cause of PPD beyond the general risk factors for depression is lack of sleep. Depression and sleep disorders often go hand in hand, and new parents are likely to experience the latter, especially during the first few months of parenthood. Sleep deprivation can also lead to changes in brain chemistry, which increases the risk of depression3. Men are also less likely to have the same social support structure mothers may have when their child is born. Even the devotion mother’s show towards their newborns can cause and/or amplify feelings of isolation in new fathers, triggering erratic behavior.
Although causes of PPD vary, research shows that depressed fathers are less likely to read and interact with their children and more likely to use corporal punishment and/or neglect their children, which makes identifying symptoms and treating them effectively all the more important, especially as men are 4 times more likely to commit suicide4 and less likely to seek treatment for their depression.
Non-drug and non-invasive, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy is a newer option in treating maternal PPD. However, TMS Therapy may also be an effective treatment option for men whose depression may be resistant to treatment with anti-depressants or cognitive behavioral therapy.
If you’re a new father and find that you are struggling with paternal PPD, visit www.tmsneuro.com to learn if TMS Therapy might be right for you.