Man Up: Talk About Paternal Postpartum


Written by Danielle Magnuson

“How are you feeling, emotionally? Any long periods of sadness or worry?” In between ultrasounds and heartbeats and blood pressure readings, my obstetrician asks about my mental health during every prenatal visit. She also brings up the possibility of postpartum depression once this kid is born in a few months, reminding me that many women experience it at some level and how important it is to seek help if persistent feelings of anxiety, sadness, or detachment last longer than a couple of weeks.

It’s reassuring to know my doctor is alert to this overwhelming condition that has affected so many of my friends and acquaintances, from milder cases to a severe case of wanting to die and having intrusive thoughts of hurting the baby. Between 9 and 16 percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I’m confident that if I experience PPD in any form, I’ll have a sympathetic professional ear and immediate medical treatment available to me as a new mother.

But Radish Magazine points out that postpartum depression in dads (p. 29) is just as common as in moms—and the same culture that has learned to open up about the condition in women isn’t quite as prepared for it in men.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association finds that “14 percent of men suffer depression either during their partner’s pregnancy or during the first year after the birth of their child.” Says study author James Paulson:

There is a stigma surrounding depression, especially in men. If you look at the Internet forums where people are talking about this study, you’ll read so many people saying that these guys just have to man up or that the men suffering from this are just sad that they’re no longer the center of attention.

In my circles, we do tend to cluck sympathetically when hearing of a new mom struggling through dark thoughts in the months after her little bambino is born, while simultaneously coming down on a new dad who feels anxious or sad during the same time period. Paulson’s study is a great reminder that the partner is experiencing just as profound of a life change as the mother. It’s important for men suffering from depression to overcome the stigma and seek help, just as women are counseled to do. “Having a child changes a person’s life in dramatic way,” writes Radish. “This can be overwhelming to even the most stable of new fathers.”

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


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Is Family Really First? US Lags Behind Other Nations in Providing Paid Paternal Leave

Toddler Beaten To Death Because He Wouldn’t Stop Crying


Photo from genesedn via flickr


Jane R.
Jane R5 years ago

This doesn't surprise me at all. Men can go through a lot of symptom during a pregancy. It's called sympathetic syndrome. They can have morning sickness etc. They need as much help and support as the woman does during the pregnancy and after!

Nina Anghel
Nina Anghel5 years ago

im surprised by this actually.

Nimue Pendragon

The wife/partner devotes 100% of her time to the baby (as it should be) and they feel "left out". And they whinge and whine about themselves. If they actually had to go through even a TINY BIT of what a woman does, then they might be justified in feeling "depressed". This is a time when a woman needs a man to be a man, to be strong, not fall in a heap. I believe it's called the "me too" syndrome. It's really pathetic.

Jay Williamson
Jay w5 years ago

im surprised by this actually

because the greater percentage of woman take care of 99% of the newborns needs so why do men get depressed when they dont have to actually get up in the night, change nappies, do the feedings etc?

i can understand feeling down because his partner has a new focus that isnt actually him but as for getting into a depressed state i cant figure that one out. or maybe it was just in my circumstance i did everything because i had to without his help.

Nicole P.
Nicole Sedkowski5 years ago

Very relevant. I never even knew men could suffer from it, and I actually thought the cases in women were much rarer than evidently is. Thans for posting, I hope this helps spread awareness. It certainly broadened my horizons.

J.L. A.
j A5 years ago

All significant life events--including those we welcome and are happy about--increases the risk of depression. It shouldn't be a surprise that adding a family member can do that for both parents.

Sandra L.
Sandra L5 years ago

Prim, Your reference to the primitive brain and the instinct to go back to the cave makes me smile. I call that my inner cavewoman, whom I named Durga. For some time after all that happened to me I felt like she had died and I was left feeling alone, fragile and broken. It was a long road back but I am happy to say that she is alive and well in all her unappologetic, wild, radiant glory.

Prim Prior
Colin K5 years ago

SORRY this are all out of order last first....

because a hospital setting most often triggers this response...unless you are so at ease and confident in your physician and believe him or her when she says “better here at hospital than home”…not because she will miss the tee off…or make an extra grand ($) or so for the procedure…but because she is wise, compassionate and has taken and abides by the first tenant of the Hippocratic oath: "First do no HARM"

WHY don't we teach this in school?
Because we teach our doctors in schools funded by the Pharma-Surgical Consortium.
Breech birth!…(doctor thinks…”don't know about that”….”could get sued”…”are my premiums paid up?”…Mame: “you need a C-section./“ (Current OBGYNs learn more about hiring a lawyer and insurance underwriter than a breech birth.) you are some glad we saved you and the baby's life eh?...we got there just in time.

NONE of this is usual with a quiet, calm supported home birth orchestrated by YOU...with the help of a trained midwife.

However when at home or in a homelike secure, perivate and safe place you mind enters a different mental mode and causes a quiet empowering fortitude allowing your amazing powers to surface and do their job (not labour). Babies in many cultures birth smiling and not crying. See Fredrick Leboyer’s book Birth without violence….see the smiles.
Read Ami McKay’

Prim Prior
Colin K5 years ago

pitocin (the synthetic much stronger OXYTOCIN women produce when the time is right...when the baby signals readiness....and it is the hormone that squeezes the uterus...and many other things that are all associated with LOVE, Happiness and Harmony. Pitocin gives violent contractions...they hurt...badly...not only you, but baby too...thats when the fetal monitor (sometimes screwed into the head of baby) set off the alarms...your adrenaline boosts...too late to run...instead we say the baby is in distress and he may be so scared of the Tiger he may poop…(meconium is the first bowel movement which could enter into the amnionic fluid and can get into the lungs, as the fluid moves in and out of the lungs until the first breath and it can cause harm)…or baby’s stress can elevate heart rate has it s consequences…and we hear: “we may loose him and maybe you too if we don't do a c-section now”….or worse we let you go through this synthetic hell until you rip and tear….we have all manner of latin used by the learned to mask and hide the causes….one of the worst causes is iatrogenesis…and later a great likelihood of nosocomial infection. (how ever at home the bacteria are not the same threat as you will likely have immunity to them.)

This eventuality is why you have wiring and tubing everywhere an in and out of every orifice and an IV started…and why you are not allowed to eat or drink...because we know we are going to operate

Prim Prior
Colin K5 years ago

Dear Sandra L,

After all that still breast fed…WOW…good for you and your lucky little one…YOUR ARE A SAINT!

It would be ludicrous to say all hospital births are problematic. BUT very fair to say most. The science says our primitive brain (the one that among other things gives us instantaneous extrapolations of the variables for our safety…and instigates: FIGHT or FLIGHT) …in your case it said: Sandra, this is not a safe place to birth…not really… it just talks straight to your endocrine system. In a nutshell it says...I can smell the Saber Tooth Tiger...get your butt in gear and get back to the cave...and in the meantime it shuts down labour...its hard to run and birth at the same the primitive brain sees a hospital in the same context as the Tiger-UNsafe: a strange place, strange smells, sounds, bells whistles and noise, lack of privacy, ambivalence of staff etc...causes the endocrine system to send things like adrenaline to the muscles preparing them for flight and NOT sending the biochemicals needed for labour. Women at this point here the term "failure to progress"....what must that do to the already fearful and vulnerable female?...she what wrong with me?...women have been doing this for eons...and not even with the 'help' of hospitals...I must be some real big feeb....NOT AT ALL TRUE...but we don't mind you feeling this way as it makes it a whole lot easier to say...we are going to give you some