Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders: Partners Are Not Immune

Recent studies have shown that up to 10 percent of fathers experience a range of disorders during the mother’s pregnancy and postpartum phase. Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (PMAD) in the birthing mother has been linked to hormonal, physical and biological changes that are more typically thought of and visible to others during and after pregnancy, traumatic birth experiences, thyroid problems, vitamin D deficiencies, previous history of mental illness and many other factors. So why are men affected?

As it turns out, men experience a change in testosterone levels when they become fathers which can impact their mood, changes in their roles including the major life change of becoming a father. Between the changes in their own hormones, pressures and desires to be a good father, and the dramatic life change, new fathers are at risk for developing their own symptoms of depressive or anxiety disorders.  Plus, dads also experience the lack of sleep, the frustration of trying to soothe a fussy baby and the fear of making a mistake.

There are many additional factors that impact new dads.

  • Fathers can feel left out of parenting or have difficulties bonding, especially if mother is breastfeeding.
  • A partner’s role in the home can change, often with added responsibilities that mom cannot currently carry out.
  • Because a postpartum body needs time to heal, and mom is focused on bonding with her new baby, there may be less physical and emotional intimacy in the couple’s relationship. This may go unnoticed by the new mom.
  • Financial stressors often accompany the birth of a child.
  • Due to socialized ideas about males discussing their emotions, men are less likely to feel comfortable talking about the impact of their changing roles or how they might be coping with this new role.

While much is to be learned about depression and anxiety disorders in the non-birthing parent, one thing is sure: It is important to get help. Studies have shown untreated paternal depression leads to marital problems, increased conflict in the home and decreased bonding with the baby.

Paternal Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Symptoms

  • Being easily stressed
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling discouraged, depressed
  • Impulsiveness and reckless behavior
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Increased anger and conflict
  • Irritability
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
  • Misuse of prescription medication
  • Physical complaints such as headaches or stomach problems
  • Problems with concentration and motivation
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Violent behavior
  • Weight loss without dieting
  • Working constantly

All Partners Can Be Impacted

It is important to note that the terms “males”, “men” and “fathers” are used here to describe the non-birthing parent. While biological factors may not hold true, many of the risk factors are present regardless of gender or type of relationship between the parents of the child.

You are not alone! Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders are the #1 complication of pregnancy. Pine Rest has innovative, proven programs to help you feel like yourself again.

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