fathers can have postpartum depression, too
By Bob LaMendola, Sun-Sentinel, South Florida - 9/10/2000
When it strikes new mothers, it has a name. The anxiety and irritability
that take hold after childbirth are well known as postpartum depression.
there's no name for the tense feelings that tarnish the first weeks
"It's real," says Ilyene Barsky, a Coral Springs, FL.,
counselor who specializes in post-birth problems. "Dads go
through a pattern of symptoms just like the mothers do."
is not the cause. Men do not experience the swings in hormone levels
that are at least partly the cause of depression in new mothers.
In fathers, the culprit is the favorite villain of our times, stress,
which can cause mental and physical symptoms.
sleep deprivation, the uncertainty of a new child, a wife coping
with hormones, and a drastic reorganization in the household power
structure, and that's a formula for stress, Barsky says.
though they have gained a new family member, it's still a change
and still an adjustment," she says. "The ways he used
to cope are no longer effective. He can't just go running. There's
no time and you can't take your baby with you. You can't take your
baby into a bar with you."
Kaplan of Coral Springs felt more stress than he ever knew after
his wife, Ellen, delivered twin girls in October 1999. Ellen had
bouts of depression severe enough to require medication.
gone 10, 12 hours a day and she would call me up at work with panic
attacks. Not mad but sad. It got so she couldn't handle anything,"
says Kaplan, 37.
tried to be supportive. I started taking over more chores (including
night feedings) and it puts more pressure on you. There's more tension
and more fighting. No matter how cool and collected you are, you
still have to go through it, you can't stop it."
helped heal the Kaplans, but their experience is not unusual.
As many as 80 percent of women have a mild depression called "baby
blues" that lasts a week or two before fading. Postpartum depression
is more serious, touching about 15 percent of mothers.
get cranky, weep easily, take no joy in motherhood, can't sleep
and then feel guilty about all those feelings. The difference between
blues and depression? A blue mother given time away from her baby
will sleep; a depressed mother will fret and grow worse.
after day of such problems become mentally taxing to the fathers.
Some get physical aches or even "sympathy pains" that
mirror those of their wives.
"If Mom is having depression, Dad is likely to feel distant
and maybe even resentful after a while," says Ricky Siegel,
a family educator for Planned Parenthood of South Palm Beach and
Broward Counties in Florida.
demanding and helpless baby upsets the couple's relationship and
daily priorities more radically and for a longer period than parents
was feeling more of a loss of a partner," Kaplan says. "This
woman is changing on me. We were not the same people we had been."
says some men start viewing their wives as a mother instead of a
lover, and use that as a justification to cheat.
wait. Childbirth instructors talk about these issues at length.
Shouldn't parents know all this in advance and be ready for it?
Yes, Barsky says, but some don't get it until it's too late.
want their life to go back to normal," she says.