Postpartum depression is usually a term associated with new female parents. However, it is a condition that also affects males who have recently become a parent.

Postpartum depression can affect up to 25% of men. Symptoms include continuous feelings of sadness, anxiousness, or emptiness. There are several potential causes, such as a history of depression, anxiety, and hormonal changes.

This article explores male postpartum depression, including the causes, symptoms, possible treatments, outlook, and when a person should contact a doctor.

Male holding baby, experiencing postpartum depressionShare on Pinterest
miodrag ignjatovic/Getty Images

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Postpartum depression is a depressive episode a person experiences after the birth of a baby. People commonly talk about in relation to females. However, males can also develop the condition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that this is different from what is commonly known as “the baby blues.” Postpartum depression feelings last longer and are more intense.

A person with postpartum depression may experience worry, sadness, and fatigue for extended periods.

Male postpartum depression can affect 1 in 10 new dads. Postpartum anxiety often occurs in addition to depression.

First-time dads may be the most vulnerable to male postpartum depression.

Male postpartum depression may not necessarily become immediately apparent. This could develop over the course of about a year.

A 2019 study indicates that postpartum depression in males may negatively affect their interaction with the child.

There may be various causes for male postpartum depression. Below, we outline some of these possible causes.

Hormonal changes

Female hormones change during pregnancy. However, 2017 research suggests that males may develop lower levels of testosterone during their partner’s pregnancy. This decline may be due to psychological reasons, and low testosterone levels in males may have a link to depression.

Additional hormones that may change in men during the perinatal and postnatal period include estrogen, cortisol, vasopressin, and prolactin.

Feeling detached or overwhelmed

In some cases, fathers may feel detached from their newborn children. This is particularly true of males who are not in a relationship with the child’s other parent, so they spend a lot of time away from the child.

At times, becoming a parent, especially for the first time, may overwhelm a person. These feelings can lead to depression.

Lack of sleep

Having a newborn can mean that a person’s sleep lacks length and quality.

Research from 2015 suggests that sleep-deprived people are more likely to develop depression.

Mother’s depression

If the mother of the child has postpartum depression, this can result in the father also feeling depressed.

This may be due to psychological feelings or a sense of being overwhelmed.

History of depression or anxiety

A person with a history of depression or anxiety may be more likely to develop postpartum depression.

This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, making a person more susceptible to developing depression.

Alternative factors

Other factors that may influence a person’s development of depression include young age, financial difficulties, and stress.

Postpartum depression symptoms are the same for both males and females.

The CDC lists the following as symptoms of postpartum depression:

  • continuously feeling sad, anxious, or empty
  • having frequent negative thoughts and feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • irritability or anger
  • restlessness
  • lack of energy or motivation
  • difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • memory problems
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • loss of appetite or overeating
  • suicidal thoughts
  • continuous aches and pains

Male and female postpartum depression are identical in terms of symptoms.

Older research discovered the following statistics of people being diagnosed with postpartum depression.

MaleFemale
3 months postpartum3.4%9.3%
12 months postpartum4%4.4%

This indicates that females are more likely to receive a postpartum depression diagnosis.

A 2019 study in the United Kingdom found that healthcare professionals were more likely to identify postpartum depression symptoms in females. The study concludes the need for more awareness of male postpartum depression.

A 2019 meta-analysis claims that regular screening, implementing prevention techniques, and providing the appropriate treatment are key to combating male postpartum depression.

There are two main forms of treatment for postpartum depression.

Medication

Doctors may prescribe medication to a male with postpartum depression. This medication will most likely be an antidepressant.

These antidepressants are stimulants, which rebalance the chemicals in the brain.

There are many types of antidepressants. Some of the most common include:

Therapy

A person with depression may benefit from talking therapy.

There are several different kinds of therapy. These include psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and couples’ therapy.

Doctors may be able to help advise where people can access a therapist.

A person may also wish to consider joining a support group. Here, they can meet individuals in a similar situation and share coping mechanisms.

Learn more about types of therapy here.

Home remedies

Additionally, a person may wish to try home remedies or additional treatments. These can include:

  • having acupuncture
  • having massage therapy
  • participating in exercise
  • discovering triggers
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • getting more sleep

Postpartum depression is a common condition that doctors can treat easily and in a variety of ways.

If a person does not get help, any suicidal feelings they are experiencing may worsen. Therefore, it is key for a person to visit their doctor if they think they have male postpartum depression.

A person should contact a doctor if they feel they may have postpartum depression.

If a person has thoughts of suicide, they should seek immediate help. Various helplines are available to call if a person is in severe distress.

Find out more about suicide hotlines and prevention here.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Click here for more links and local resources.

Male postpartum depression is a less common diagnosis than female postpartum depression. This is due to a lack of awareness and checkups from healthcare professionals.

Postpartum depression can happen for various reasons in males. However, it is treatable with therapy, medications, or home remedies.

A person should seek immediate help if they experience severe symptoms of depression, such as suicidal thoughts.