Feeling a little down after the birth of your child? For both parents, these feelings are more common than you might think.

When you’re awaiting the birth of your baby, chances are someone may have warned you that your pregnant partner might experience “the baby blues.”

Maybe they even warned you to keep an eye on them to make sure it doesn’t turn into something more serious, like postpartum depression.

However, it’s not common for the non-birthing parent to be warned about experiencing the same thing. But postpartum depression can affect men and non-birthing parents.

Postpartum depression in men and is more common than most people think and may even affect the non-birthing parent more severely in some cases. It’s also not something you can just “tough out” or “get over.”

PPD is a form of depression that shows up after the birth of your baby.

Sometimes it begins as the “baby blues” in the days and weeks that follow, which can include feeling:

  • sad
  • emotional
  • indecisive

But it becomes PPD when those feelings of anxiety or depression become so intense that they begin to interfere with your ability to do daily tasks.

In women, PPD usually occurs within 1 to 3 weeks after the baby is born, but it can show up anytime in the first year. In men, PPD can develop more slowly. It is most common when the baby is between ages 3 to 6 months.

How common is postpartum depression in men?

PPD affects between 10%–20% of new mothers. And while PPD in men is less talked about, it’s not rare.

But unlike the birthing parent, fathers aren’t routinely screened for PPD, which may lead to more men underreporting symptoms.

This makes it difficult to be sure how many men are affected by PPD. However, it’s believed that PPD may affect about 1 in 10 men.

“PPD is a far more common phenomenon in men than people give it credit for,” explains psychiatrist Saqib Bajwa. “Within 3 to 6 months of the birth of a child, 8%–10% of fathers tend to suffer from an undefined range of powerful emotions out of which depression tops the charts.”

While PPD has well-established criteria for diagnosing it in women, it does not have that same firm criterion for men. Currently, the exact number of how many men develop PPD is unclear.

“Being that this is not discussed or talked about often, there is not accurate information on exactly how common this is,” says therapist Marcella Blum. “Often, men are misdiagnosed with other mental health disorders.”

With research still ongoing, psychologists and psychiatrists are still not sure what the causes or risk factors are for PPD in men. However, there are a few factors they believe could make a big impact on PPD in fathers.

New babies bring big emotions

Even if you did not go through the physical process of giving birth to your baby, your world still changed after that baby was born, affecting your sleep, stress, relationships, and more.

Renee Goff, licensed clinical psychologist says, “[Men] can experience intense emotions watching what their partner went through to give birth, especially if it was a traumatic birth or if there were complications with the birth.”

Following the birth, men can sometimes feel a decreased connection with their spouse as parenting instincts take over and the focus shifts to the baby and learning to care for that baby. This can lead to marital discord.

“They are experiencing a change in the family dynamic, and oftentimes do not feel the strong connection that mothers may feel with their babies, therefore [they] may have a sense of guilt, shame, or helplessness,” says Blum. Some fathers also feel like they have to suppress these feelings to be there for their partner.

Lack of sleep

“One major trigger in PPD for men is lack of sleep,” says Blum. “As we know, lack of sleep can cause a decrease in concentration, irritability, depression, appetite, and weight changes.”

This, she continues, “can interrupt a father’s ability to function during the early months of parenthood, just the same as it does a mother’s ability to fully connect with parenthood.”

Hormonal shifts

While the hormonal shifts in the birthing parent are well documented, research has also shown that becoming a parent can affect the non-birthing parent hormonally, as well.

A 2011 study found that new fathers showed an average 26%–34% decrease in their testosterone levels (depending on the time of day) after their baby was born. The same study also showed that testosterone levels were lowest in the men who spent the most time caring for their children as their bond to their child increased.

Testosterone drops are believed to be how a man’s body decreases aggression and increases a sympathetic response to their crying baby. However, when testosterone levels drop, explains Blum, it can impact:

An older 2007 study also found that fathers can experience hormonal changes during pregnancy and for several months following the birth of their child.

These hormonal changes included not only a decrease in testosterone but also an increase in:

  • estrogen
  • cortisol
  • vasopressin
  • prolactin

While these hormonal changes can help dads bond with your baby, they can also predispose you to PPD.

History of mental illness

Having a history of depression before your child was born may increase the chances that you’ll experience PPD. This is true, says Goff, whether you’re the mother or the father, cisgender, or transgender.

Symptoms of PPD can vary from person to person, though like in women, the most common symptoms include feelings of anxiety and depression.

Men also commonly report feeling:

  • guilt
  • helplessness
  • resentment

In addition, other symptoms can include:

  • loss of energy
  • feeling agitated or restless
  • loss of interest in activities
  • changes in appetite
  • trouble concentrating
  • aggressive behavior
  • impulsiveness
  • irritability
  • weight change
  • difficulty sleeping
  • feelings of isolation
  • thoughts of suicide
  • intrusive thoughts of harming the baby

Suicide prevention

Remember that you’re not alone and resources are available to you. If you need to talk with someone right away, you can:

Not in the United States? You can find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.

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“PPD is often missed in fathers due to the stigma surrounding it,” says Goff. “Society often expects men to ‘just get over it,’ ‘suck it up,’ or ‘be a man.’ Plus, a man being ‘angry and irritable’ is more socially acceptable.”

Postpartum depression can have serious effects not only on your mental health but also on your family and child.

A 2011 study found that infants of fathers with depression had higher levels of distress, while another 2011 study found that children of fathers with depression may have a higher chance of developing emotional or behavioral issues.

A 2016 study found paternal depression to also be linked to aggression in children between ages 0 to 4, while a 2017 study found that paternal depression can raise the chance of a child developing a psychiatric disorder in early childhood.

It can also take a toll on your relationship with your partner, which can lead to:

  • conflict
  • arguments
  • separation

Since it’s typically uncommon for non-birthing parents and dads to be routinely screened, it can be important to talk with your doctor or therapist if you experience symptoms of PPD.

During a screening, your doctor can rule out any other underlying medical reasons for your symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with PPD, your doctor or therapist can work with you to determine the right treatment plan. You may need to try several things before finding what works for you.

Treatment plans for PPD often include a combination of:

  • therapy
  • medication
  • support groups
  • support from loved ones
  • self-care and lifestyle changes

It’s common for symptoms of postpartum depression in men and non-birthing partners to be overlooked. But the reality is, PPD can be a serious condition for both mothers and fathers that can take a toll on your:

  • health and wellness
  • relationships
  • child

It’s not possible to “muscle through” or “just get over” PPD symptoms. Ignoring PPD symptoms won’t solve anything. Despite the stigma and challenges, seeking professional assistance can be helpful.

Know that you are not alone if you think you may be dealing with PPD. Speaking with your doctor or therapist can be important if you notice symptoms.

Postpartum depression in men and women is treatable, often with a combination of:

  • therapy
  • medication
  • self-care and lifestyle changes
  • social support

If you’re looking for support, websites like PostpartumDepression.org can be a great starting place. You can also check out Psych Central’s guide to finding mental health help.