Recognizing postpartum depression in fathers

Recognizing postpartum depression in fathers

Recognizing postpartum depression in fathers

Recognizing postpartum depression in fathers

Alan-Michael Graves, EdD

There is no clear set of diagnostic criteria for fathers who experience major mental health changes after childbirth. But Alan-Michael Graves, EdD, head of learning and empowerment programs at the Good + Foundation in Los Angeles, says he sees new dads struggling in silence with postpartum depression recognized.

The science of maternal postpartum depression is relatively new. What we do know so far is that postpartum depression in dads is influenced by many of the same factors as postpartum depression in mothers: hormonal changes, social and emotional changes, lack of sleep, challenges finances and history of depression. And that symptoms can wreak havoc on health.

Good+ operates in low-income communities where families need extra support, and it provides culturally sensitive support services to fathers in its network. But Graves notes that, like postpartum depression in mothers, the father’s version doesn’t discriminate: It happens to dads of all socioeconomic levels, all races, and all situation.


Q&A with Alan-Michael Graves, EdD

Where does maternal depression come from?

In our community-based programs that work with pregnant women, we find that many fathers-to-be and new fathers are extremely stressed. For all sorts of reasons: He used to be just a guy, but now he’s a father. He is worried about financial support for his family. He was once solely responsible for himself and his partner, and now for their child as well. He wanted to be a different parent than he was raised, but he never had anyone to talk to about it. Sometimes he just can’t manage all of that. And while everyone is focusing on how a mother’s life has changed, not many are asking, “What’s going on with you?”

How do you recognize that a father may have postpartum depression?

Isolation. Withdraw money. And mask the depression with something else. Many boys volunteer to work part-time so they don’t have to stay at home around their wives and children. Substance abuse and infidelity are also signs that they are coming out of depression and parenting challenges.

How do you talk to dads about postpartum depression?

Fathers never know that what they are dealing with is the mother’s postpartum depression. And you can’t just go to men – especially men in communities of color, where there is often a strong stigma about mental health – and say, “I think you have postpartum depression.” . Because first, we don’t want to make them feel that we’re calling them crazy. And if you tell them the first thing they’re postpartum, they’ll say, “It’s for girls.”

So we start by talking about the impact on your life as a new parent — stressors and challenges. Just halfway through the course, we mentioned that the name for what they’re experiencing is maternal postpartum depression, and that’s common. We normalize it. I told them about what I went through as a new dad. And we focus on peer-to-peer support. If you can catch a guy in a room full of other guys going through similar situations, he realizes it’s not just him. He’s become more open to talking about how he’s feeling, and he’s more likely to deploy tools to get better.

And we see dads got better. I keep doing this because we see the light bulb go out. We see fathers reunited with their families. And most importantly, we watch their healthy relationships with their children develop over time. We just brought a group of guys who had been on our fatherhood program for four or five months to a game of Dodgers together, and they brought their kids – kids that I usually only hear about. talk about. And seeing them interact with those kids makes me want to keep doing this forever.

Related reading

A Postpartum Doula on New Parenting Orientation

Get help for postpartum anxiety

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Alan-Michael Graves, EdD, is the senior director of learning and capacity building at Good + Foundation.

This newspaper only gives true information. It is not, nor is it intended as a substitute for, professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article advises physicians or medical professionals, the views expressed are those of the expert cited and do not necessarily represent the views of Goop.

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