Postpartum Depression: Not Just for Moms

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Rob Sandler likes to feel that he's in charge of his life. He likes to make plans, set goals for himself, and achieve them. And, for the most part, he was able to do that—until his son was born.

"You suddenly have no control over what you do," says Sandler, 38, a medical device sales rep in Houston. "You are totally dependent on what the baby needs, and when he needs it. Before, you are very in control of your life and time and calendar—all that changes so dramatically when you have a child."

By the time his son was 2 weeks old, this abrupt change and the feelings of "entrapment" it brought had made Sandler a wreck. He went from being excited and happy to overwhelmed, anxious, and sad. His appetite waned. He suffered from insomnia. He lost control of his emotions.

Sandler started to feel that he was failing his son, and after another two weeks, the guilt led him to consult a psychologist. But even then, it took months—and an initial diagnosis of acute depression—for him to realize that what he was suffering from was postpartum depression.

Postpartum (or postnatal) depression is loosely defined as an episode of depressed mood that occurs in the weeks and months following the birth of a child, and, unlike the fleeting and more common "baby blues," persists for at least two weeks.

For obvious reasons, postpartum depression has traditionally been seen as a condition that affects women. Mounting research shows that the experience is not restricted to moms, however. Studies in recent years have found that roughly 10% of men become depressed when their partner is expecting or after bringing a baby home—not much lower than the rate of 13% to 14% seen in new mothers.

Although the causes and symptoms of postpartum depression differ slightly in men and women (hormones may play a bigger role in women, for instance), the complications it can cause are similar regardless of sex and are no less serious a concern for dads. In addition to creating problems at work and with partners, postpartum depression can affect father-child bonding and can have consequences for a child's long-term development.

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Lead writer: Tammy Worth
Last Updated: February 07, 2011

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