Key Takeaways

  • While most people associate postpartum depression (PPD) with new mothers, men can also experience a drop in mood and other depressive symptoms during the postpartum period. 
  • Research shows that, in addition to the typical stressors associated with becoming a new parent, non-birthing parents can also experience hormonal changes that can impact their mental health.
  • PPD is a clinical mood condition that often requires professional mental health support. If you suspect that you or your co-parent is living with symptoms of PPD, know that there is effective treatment available to help you manage your mood and keep you and your baby safe.

Most of the time, when we hear the term “postpartum depression,” it refers to the clinical mood condition that can affect new mothers or birthing parents. But in reality, parents of all genders can experience periods of low mood after a baby is born. Men or non-birthing parents can and do experience postpartum depression (PPD). Some research estimates that it affects up to 10% of fathers during the first six months of their new child’s life. 

This condition is more acute than the “baby blues,” and it can impact a parent’s mood in ways that make it difficult to care for themselves and their baby. Fortunately, there is growing awareness around PPD in men, and learning more about the signs, symptoms, and available treatments can help you feel more empowered to ask for help.

Read: Therapy and psychiatry: How do I know which is right for me?Postpartum depression symptoms in non-birthing parents

PPD in mothers or birthing parents is caused, in part, by the hormonal shifts that naturally occur throughout pregnancy, delivery, and the postpartum period. But we now know that non-birthing parents can also experience hormonal fluctuations after a baby is born. These biochemical changes, along with other factors, can cause parents of all genders to experience emotional, behavioral, and cognitive PPD symptoms, such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Anger, irritability, or impulsivity
  • Problems with sleep
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Trouble concentrating 
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends
  • Digestive problems
  • Substance misuse
  • Low motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains that don’t have another explanation
  • Negative thoughts and anxiety
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others*

*But if you or someone you care about needs support right away, please contact the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 from any phone for 24/7 crisis support. Postpartum Support International also offers several free, confidential lines for emergency and non-emergency support.

Causes and risk factors 

We don’t yet know all the underlying causes of PPD in men and non-birthing parents. But research shows that there are certain biological, environmental, and lifestyle factors that might put you at greater risk of developing the condition, including:

  • Having a partner who also has PPD
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Having other mental health conditions like anxiety or depression
  • Relationship issues between you and your partner
  • Feeling inadequate or like you can’t meet the expectations of parenthood
  • Financial strain
  • Worrying about all the changes a new baby brings to your household and family structure

How long does male postpartum depression last?

No matter their gender, the amount of time that PPD affects new parents varies from one person to the next. However, we know that there is effective treatment for male PPD and that early detection is key. The sooner you can identify concerning mood changes in yourself or your partner, the sooner you can seek treatment that will bring you relief from your symptoms. 

Keep in mind that even under the best circumstances, the early days with a new baby can be an exciting but difficult time. Try to have patience with yourself and your co-parent as you navigate this transition. In addition to seeking professional help for PPD, there are also some things you can do for yourself to support your mental health during this time, including:

  • Eat right. Prioritize nutrition and trying to eat a balanced diet.
  • Move your body. Move your body in ways you enjoy, even if you don’t have time for a full workout.
  • Rest when you can. Ask your partner or another person if they can cover you for a night so that you can rest, and fit in naps whenever you can.
  • Avoid mood-reducing activities. Steer clear of behaviors or habits that tend to make your mood worse, like drinking, gambling, or anything that puts you or someone else at risk.
  • Talk it out. Find someone you can talk to who understands what you’re going through and will listen without judgment.
  • Be kind to yourself. Have patience with yourself and remember that having a new baby is a major adjustment that will take some time to get used to.

Supporting a partner with postpartum depression

If a partner or new parent in your life is living with symptoms of postpartum depression, know that there are some things you can do to support them

  • Listen without judgment. First and foremost, let them know that you’re there to listen to whatever they want to share about their experience without judgment. 
  • Help out with tasks. Take some tasks off of their to-do list, and be specific about what you can offer. For example, instead of saying “What can I do to help?” ask something like “Would you like me to watch the baby while you shower?” or “I’m going to make a grocery list and do some shopping. What do you need?”
  • Provide encouragement. Be encouraging, and remind them that what they’re doing is hard. Tell them that they’re capable and a great parent, and this stage won’t last forever.
  • Encourage self-care. Give them whatever support they need to make time for self-care. Remind them that taking care of themselves will help them be the best parent they can be.
  • Lead with patience. If they don’t seem like themselves, be patient with them. Keep in mind that they’ve recently undergone a lot of change and they’re still adjusting to this “new normal” in many ways.
  • Offer affection and affirmations. Offer affection in the form of hugs or verbal affirmations like “I’m so proud of you.” Let the birthing partner (and their doctor) decide when they’re ready to resume sexual activity.
  • Remind them that help is available. If needed, support them in seeking professional help. This could be helping them find the right therapist, providing transportation to appointments, or keeping an eye on the baby during their sessions.

Find support for male postpartum depression with Rula

Having a new baby can be a time of both immense joy and intense stress. Birthing and non-birthing parents alike often experience physical and emotional strain during this time due to hormonal changes, a lack of sleep, and many other factors. But if you or someone you care about is showing signs of postpartum depression, know that you’re not alone and help is available. 

At Rula, we’re here to make it easier for busy parents to get the mental healthcare they need to stabilize their moods and be the best caregivers they can be. In just a few seconds, we can connect you with a provider who takes your insurance and has the ability to meet this week. And our convenient online platform means you can meet with your provider without even having to leave your home. 

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