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Postpartum Depression: Dad's Can Have it Too

Severe depression, situational anxiety, feelings of loneliness, a despondent attitude towards daily life activities, and detachment from loved ones are all symptoms of postpartum depression.

A 2008 CDC estimate found that self-reported postpartum depression was prevalent in 11.7 percent to 20.4 percent of new mothers, varying from state to state. Official screenings for postpartum depression symptoms don’t always occur (note that the CDC’s estimate is based on self-reported data). Post-partum depression screenings for new fathers almost never happens, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also experience these symptoms.

Men & Postpartum Depression

A recently-published study suggests that as many as 25 percent of fathers of newborns experience postpartum depression symptoms three to six months after the birth of their child. The study also suggests that if the mother is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, the father is at increased risk of experiencing the same symptoms. This increased risk can cause heightened emotional distress during the natural bonding time with the newborn, potentially impairing the long-term behavioral and cognitive functioning for the child.

Nurses can reduce the negative long term effects of postpartum depression by assessing the needs of the newborn's parents within the first couple weeks of their child’s birth. Nursing education can help new parents avoid postpartum depression, and includes helping the parents connect with the child by stroking or patting the newborn, making eye contact with the newborn, and verbalizing positive feelings towards the newborn ("I love my baby's eyes" or "I like it when she wraps her little hand around my finger").

Other nursing interventions to help cope with depression symptoms would be to encourage participating in daily activities with the newborn such as feeding, changing diapers, reading, singing, and going on strolls.

Frequent and accurate postpartum depression screening for the mother, performed by both the primary practitioner and the nurse, can lead to proper screening of the father, too. Assessing and addressing these symptoms of prolonged sadness, detachment from the newborn, decreased breastfeeding from the mother, insomnia, and in some cases suicidal ideas, can lead to better outcomes and optimal parent-child bonding during those important first few years of growth.

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