It's easy to assume that when you have a baby, you're going to be blissfully content and feel like everything is finally right in your world. Maybe you tried for a while before it finally happened. Maybe you wanted to be a mama from a very young age and so you can't believe that the moment is here. Now you have a family and it's everything that you ever wanted. How could you possibly feel anything other than bliss? Of course you're going to feel perfectly happy and like you don't have a care in the world, right?
Well, not always. Postpartum depression is common and it's a really big deal. It's more than just being tired from having a baby in the house or getting used to things. While we are starting to discuss the subject more, it can always be discussed even more. Only one kind of postpartum depression is talked about more often, though, and that's postpartum that affects moms. Dads can struggle with this, too, and that's something that we need to spotlight.
Read on to find out 20 ways that postpartum depression is different for men and women, along with stories from three celebrities who have opened up about their struggles as well.
We hear a lot about a woman's hormones after having a baby, and when women have PPD, that could be tied to hormones.
As Help Guide explains, "hormonal changes" are one reason for PPD: "After childbirth, women experience a big drop in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels. Thyroid levels can also drop, which leads to fatigue and depression. These rapid hormonal changes—along with the changes in blood pressure, immune system functioning, and metabolism that new mothers experience—may trigger postpartum depression."
It's important to note this because, if this is something that we are currently struggling with or have in the past, we should never blame ourselves. We should know that this can be tied to hormones.
Postpartum depression is definitely a serious subject and that can be why some people are scared to talk about it. We never want to think that someone that we care about is going through a hard time, but ignoring it doesn't make it go away, so we do need to face it.
In some cases of female PPD, it can get even more serious. Baby Center explains that sometimes, women can have hallucinations. When this happens, it's especially crucial to see a doctor and talk to someone. This absolutely can't be ignored. It's another example of when it's good to be aware of some of the signs.
There are many factors that contribute to postpartum depression in women. One of them is education, which might not be something that we would expect or think about. The American College of Pediatricians also mentions that there is a high risk for women who don't have a high school education.
They also make a very helpful point: that you can know that you have postpartum depression when you feel a certain way pretty much 24/7.
This is an important thing to note for new moms since of course there are going to be hard days and nights (and tough middle of the nights most of all) but when you have these thoughts and emotions constantly, that's a sign of PPD.
Everyday Health brings up a very good point: men don't go to the doctor like women do after having a baby, so PPD might not be caught for a while.
The website says, "so there is one less point of contact with someone who could ask the right questions." They mention a study and say, "Interestingly, the researchers in the Pediatrics study found that three out of four depressed fathers had talked to their child’s pediatrician in the year after their child’s birth, suggesting that pediatricians could have a role in helping to identify depressed dads, as well as give them tools to relate better to their children."
It couldn't hurt for husbands and dads to see a doctor after their baby arrives, even if nothing seems to be wrong.
Postpartum.org mentions that men could start "risk taking" if they have PPD.
This is good to know because if you notice that your husband/partner has started acting totally differently and seems to be taking some risks, that could be a sign that he's got PPD. It might open up your eyes to what is going on and could be just the thing that helps you both talk about it and get through it together. After all, if we're not sure exactly what PPD is or what some of the signs are, then it's hard for us to recognize it and then we can't help.
There is a major difference between postpartum depression in men and women, and it's this fact; it seems like we assume that only moms get PPD and so we don't talk about dads getting it, too.
We know that when people talk about a topic, it makes it better for everyone because then people are more aware of what's going on and we don't feel like we have to hide or ignore what we're experiencing. Postpartum depression in dads does happen, too, and we do need to realize that so dads feel seen and like people are acknowledging that they go through this as well.
Cbc.ca says that dads will have upset stomachs and migraines when they have PPD, among some other things.
This might not be something that we would associate with depression or assume would be part of the experience. If our husband tells us that he's been having a lot of stomach trouble lately, we could just chalk that up to stress from juggling work and a new baby and just life in general. But if he has some other symptoms and we become more familiar with the different ways that a dad can experience PPD, we might be able to see that he's struggling with this.
Is age a factor for PPD men? It could be, based on what NCT says:
"Dads who are under 25 are more likely to go through postnatal depression than their older dad counterparts."
The website continues, "Yet age isn’t the only risk factor for postnatal depression in men. Other major risk factors include: a history of depression and anxiety; having a low income; and not being in a relationship with the child’s mother."
It's always really tough to imagine anyone dealing with something like this after having a baby since we assume it's such a lovely, life-changing time. But the fact that it's so life-changing can bring on postpartum, of course, since there are so many changes.
Dr. Christina Hibbert also mentions on her website that men feel angry when they have PPD.
If we've experienced depression before, postpartum or otherwise, or we have friends or family members who have, then we have most likely seen this firsthand. It makes sense that when someone is going through a difficult time, they would act mad and be frustrated. When we learn more about PPD in both men and women, we have the crucial tools that we need to help the people that we care about, and we can spot the differences when men and women struggle with this.
It seems like when men struggle with postpartum depression, they might not mention it to their wives. They could assume that their wives are already dealing with so much from having a baby and starting to raise it. Or -- and this seems like it happens a lot -- they might not even realize what's happening.
Since we don't talk about postpartum depression in men as often as we do when it affects women, some dads might not be sure what they're feeling and why they're feeling this way.
That's yet another reason it's so crucial to talk about this subject.
What is a sign that a dad has postpartum depression? According to Cbc.ca, dads could work late. A psychologist in San Diego, Daniel Singley, told the publication,
"They feel out of control and useless at home, but if they work outside of the home, they tend to stick around work even beyond when they have to because they feel valued and more in control there."
This makes a lot of sense, and it's also good to know because then we can recognize the signs in our own spouse if this is something that happens in our family. We would definitely think that it was a problem if our husband was working late because we want him to be home with us and our new baby, so this is a good starting point for an honest and open discussion.
Does a woman's relationship status affect whether she's going to struggle with postpartum depression? It might. Whether a woman is married or not seems to have something to do with the "risk" factor. According to American College of Pediatricians, "Risk is also higher for new mothers who are unmarried."
It's interesting to hear this and also seems logical since if it's hard to have a newborn in the house when you're married and have your partner around, we can imagine how much more difficult it would be to go it alone. From nights with a crying baby and not much sleep to days when your to-do list keeps piling up, it's a lot.
On her website, Dr. Christina Hbbert explains that men have hormones, too, and they also can have PPD because of their altered hormones.
She says that men have more estrogen and less testosterone when they have PPD.
This is another really helpful and crucial fact to know about men who have PPD. If we tell our husband that we think that he might be struggling with this based on what we've read and the way that he's feeling and acting, he could say that he doesn't have it because he doesn't have any altered hormones since he wasn't the one who had the baby. This gives us something concrete to talk about.
Baby Center says that moms with PPD can feel like they can't look after the baby and that they don't even want to.
This is definitely a sure sign that someone is struggling with postpartum because this would be a very startling thing for a new mom to go through. When you're pregnant, you picture all of the good memories ahead, and you feel like while it's going to be hard and you might feel a little lost or like there's a lot to know, you can handle this. When you don't feel that way, it can be a sign that you need to talk to someone about what's going on.
American College of Pediatricians also mentions that the risk is there for men who don't have jobs, and that they could have a greater chance of struggling with PPD.
That's logical since that would bring on a lot of stress, and as we have seen from some of the other points on this list, stress is a factor for sure when it comes to postpartum depression in men.
Of course, just because our husband or partner is employed doesn't mean that he's not struggling with PPD since it does affect men who are employed, too.
It's just good to note some of the things that could contribute to it.
There is another way that PPD is different for women, and according to Help Guide, it's the "physical changes." The website says,
"Giving birth brings numerous physical and emotional changes. You may be dealing with physical pain from the delivery."
They continue that new moms might feel "insecure". Every new mom can definitely relate to this... and everyone who has been a mom for a while. It's impossible not to think about the way that you are changing, but of course, it's a beautiful thing to have a baby, so that's what we should focus on. It's important to note that a reason for PPD in women could be these changes.
When men have postpartum, they can feel very stressed, as Postpartum.org points out.
This could be really confusing because we would assume that new dads (and moms) are pretty stressed out. Think about how stressed many of us feel on a regular basis, even if we try not to be, since we're all juggling so many different things. Having a baby is a wonderful occasion but it's not all cute Instagram photos and smiling at our newborn while they sleep. It's good to note that men can be very stressed and that could be a sign that they have PPD.
When we fall in love and begin creating a shared life with someone, we think that the future is an exciting thing. We can't wait for everything that is going to happen to us and we are so happy to have found someone. If we want to get married, then getting engaged and planning a wedding is a stepping stone toward that happy shared future. And starting a family is most likely the next step, although of course we can choose to start a family without getting married.
The future is relevant when dads have PPD. According to NCT, dads with postpartum start acting differently when they think about or talk about the future.
They have "fear, confusion, helplessness and uncertainty about the future."
Fatherly brings up a really important point about dads with postpartum depression: it can affect how a dad spends time with his child. The publication writes, "PPD does change the way you interact with your kid. In some instances, you just might check-out from family life. Studies have shown that a lack of interaction between dad and kid increases the likelihood of behavioral issues in children later in life. That’s true even if you’re physically “there” for your kid."
While this is sad to hear and think about, we know that when we can recognize how someone is feeling and what they're going through, that means that we can help them.
Are we wondering about a more practical example of how postpartum depression in dads can affect the child?
WebMD writes about the American Psychiatric Association's 2008 research led by James F. Paulson, PHD, from the Center for Pediatric Research at the Eastern Virginia Medical School. After looking at over 5,000 families with two parents and 9-month-old babies, whether dads read to their babies came up. Paulson said,
"If their dads were depressed and didn't read to them, the infants had a much smaller vocabulary. There was no link between the baby-mom interactions and the child's command of words at 2 years."
It's interesting to know that a dad reading to their baby can matter so much.
And the 3 celebs who shared their stories...
Chrissy Teigen is one celebrity who has opened up about struggling with postpartum depression.
She couldn't eat and everything in her body hurt. She also stayed home most of the time. She started taking an anti-depressant and telling people in her life what was going on.
Babble quoted her as saying, “A year ago, in April, John and I started our family together. We had our daughter, Luna, who is perfect. She is somehow exactly me, exactly John, and exactly herself. I had everything I needed to be happy. And yet, for much of the last year, I felt unhappy. What basically everyone around me — but me — knew up until December was this: I have postpartum depression.”
Courtney Cox is another celebrity who has gone through PPD. CBC News quoted her experience: "I went through a really hard time - not right after the baby, but when [Coco] turned six months. I couldn't sleep. My heart was racing. And I got really depressed. I went to the doctor and found out my hormones had been pummeled."
It's inspiring when celebrities speak up about tough topics. Since they have such a far reach and people pay a lot of attention to them, it's an amazing opportunity for people to learn more about crucial issues, PPD being one of them. If a mom can see herself in Courtney Cox's story and get help, that would be amazing.
Gwyneth Paltrow has also had PPD. Parents magazine quoted her as saying that when she went through this, she was a "zombie" that "couldn't access my heart."
The magazine quoted her interview with Good Housekeeping about her postpartum depression after having Moses: "It was terrible. It was the exact opposite of what had happened when Apple was born. With her, I was on cloud nine. I couldn't believe it wasn't the same [after Moses was born]. I just thought it meant I was a terrible mother and a terrible person."
We hope that no mom (or dad) ever feels the same way, but hopefully, once we learn more about PDD in both men and women, we can help each other and be compassionate.