Postpartum Depression for New Fathers
Rare study looks at psychological effect of childbirth on new dads.
May 18, 2010 — -- When his little bundle of joy came home from the hospital, Rob Sandler was overcome with emotion but not the kind he had expected.
"It was just a feeling of complete sadness, really deep sadness," Sandler, a 36-year-old Houston native, said. "I cried a lot, sometimes uncontrollably. I didn't sleep very well. I was very excited to have a boy. I mean, I wanted to pass on my name but also have him experience the same things I did.
"I was thinking, 'God, this is never going to get any better. And I'm overwhelmed and I'm trapped,'" Sandler said. "What am I supposed to do? I just want to run away."
Sandler said he felt disconnected from his newborn, slammed with new responsibilities and hopelessly overwhelmed. And other new fathers have experienced the same. There has been such a surge in male postpartum depression that the Journal of the American Medical Association is releasing one of the first studies on the phenomenon today.
"Men's postpartum depression is surprisingly common," psychotherapist Will Courtenay said. "In fact, a man's risk of depression doubles in the nine months after his child is born."
About 10 percent of women experience severe postpartum depression but few have studied its effect on men.
As many as one in four new dads may experience what's called parental postnatal depression, and the problem can be more than just psychological, Courtenay said.
Men can have increased estrogen and decreased testosterone levels after birth. Some biologists say this may be nature's way of keeping men around to care for the baby, but those hormone changes can also cause the blues.
"Just like women, men go through hormonal changes," Courtenay said. "[And] there are factors that weigh on us very heavily. One is sleep deprivation, which doesn''t choose a gender, depending on how you work it out with your wife. Another is anxiety."
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