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Postpartum depression - for dads
May 19, 2010 - Kylie Saari
Those first weeks after a new baby is born are a whirlwind of activity.
Exhaustion, joy, uncertainty, and lots of company mix with rapid fire learning and a mother's physical healing. And the baby has a personality that no one can predict - colic can complicate matters, as can a reversed sleep schedule or illness. It can add up to the best time in a woman's life - or the worst.
A reported 80 percent of women report mood disturbances after giving birth, attributable to hormone fluxuations the body experiences.
But postpartum depression is worse than baby blues, and it affects between 10 and 20 percent of women. The experience is sometimes debilitating.
Symptoms of PD include sadness, fatigue, insomnia, appetite changes, reduced libido, crying episodes, anxiety, and irritability. Family members and friends often identify the trouble in new moms before the moms themselves are aware of it themselves, and help is available.
But while floods of visitors arrive to gaze at the newborn and lots of support is given to new moms, dads are often left feeling somewhat out-of-the-loop. Not physically involved in the birth, some dads feel intense emotions of guilt if their partner had a difficult birth, and many men report feeling less connected to the new child than they expected.
That mix of emotions men undergo can be more serious than previously thought. A paper released recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that postpartum depression can and does affect dads.
A full 10 percent of fathers experience the symptoms listed above, but often are less likely to report it or seek help. Wives caught up in caring for a newborn or dealing with depression themselves can't be expected to see depression in their husbands - or vice versa.
Depression in parents can certainly have a negative effect on their relationships with each other and their children.
I encourage family and friends of new parents to engage them in discussion of how they are really coping. Some people expect to feel great after their much awaited bundle arrives and can feel like something is wrong with them if they have "what have I gotten myself into" type feelings.
Depression is treatable, but only if the sufferer seeks it.
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