Dads Suffer Postpartum Depression, Too

June 10, 2009 06:00 PM
by Cara McDonough
Mothers are often warned about depression following the birth of a new baby, but what about fathers? Is male postpartum depression actually on the rise?

Fathers May Have a Hard Time Adjusting to Baby

When Nick Duerden’s daughter was born, joy wasn’t his first emotion.

Instead, he wandered down the hospital hallway, burst into tears and realized he had “one overriding sensation: that I was entirely unprepared for this, and that I had no idea what would happen next.”

Duerden talks about his experience with “paternal postnatal depression” in the Daily Telegraph, and also in his book, “The Reluctant Fathers' Club,” but it’s a subject untouched by most men. He writes that when his girlfriend was pregnant, he “scoured” bookshops for memoirs that were “frank about fatherhood.” But all he found were "‘How To…’ guides often filled with jokes about beer and breast milk.”
Lately, however, a few good choices have surfaced, writes Duerden, including Ben George’s “The Book of Dads,” and “Tales From the Dad Side: Misadventures in Fatherhood” by Steve Doocy. Duerden believes the books are overdue, and there's a real need for such information. He cited statistics from Britain's Parentline Plus, a 24/7 parental help phone line, that just 16 percent of their calls came from men, showing that men usually don’t look for help, but just deal with problems themselves.

But is postpartum depression for men real? Yes, says a study cited by CNN in October 2008. According to the article, every day, 1,000 new dads become depressed in the United States. Some studies say the number could be as high as 3,000.

Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist and founder of (formerly, a site for men experiencing postpartum depression, hears from many men experiencing severe signs of depression. “They can't stand to be around their baby...they can't stand the smell or the sound of their child screaming,” he said to CNN.

He said shifting male hormones may play a role, and that the signs of full-fledged depression can include a feeling of worthlessness, sadness and a lack of interest in hobbies or sex.

In an April interview with Newsweek, Courtenay said that a big factor in the condition is whether a man’s partner is depressed. “Half of all men whose partners have postpartum depression are depressed themselves,” Courtenay said.

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Related Topic: Debra Lynn Gindorf case

Mental health experts say that Debra Lynn Gindorf was suffering from postpartum psychosis when she attempted suicide and killed her two children by mixing crushed pills in with their food in 1985. She has been in an Illinois jail for the past 24 years, but her sentence was commuted by Gov. Patrick Quinn in May.

Experts said Gindorf’s case shows how postpartum depression was often misunderstood before the disorder became more publicly discussed. Women today have much more literature about the condition at their disposal. High-profile women have also vocalized their experiences with postpartum depression, including Brooke Shields, who wrote a book about her experience, and former first lady of New Jersey, Mary Jo Codey, who helped launch the “Speak Up When You’re Down” campaign.

Reference: Resources for fathers

Ben George’s “The Book of Dads: Essays on the Joys, Perils, and Humiliations of Fatherhood”  features 20 writers offering insights into fatherhood. “Tales from the Dad Side: Misadventures in Fatherhood” by Steve Doocy includes stories from a child’s first day of kindergarten to tales of paying for college.

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