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Fathers who are experiencing postpartum depression: You are not alone

Men may experience internal tension between what they believe a man should be and feel like and how they actually feel. Picture: Pexels/ Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

Men may experience internal tension between what they believe a man should be and feel like and how they actually feel. Picture: Pexels/ Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas

Published Jan 4, 2023


Three weeks after their child was born, 28-year-old Tshepho Dlamini took his wife Lerato out to supper. For the first time since they were together, he felt like he was dining alone.

Lerato was silent and her mind was elsewhere for the most of the meal. He explains, "I could tell that all she wanted was to get home to our kid”.

Tshepho, a manager of a small company in Cape Town, felt for his wife, who had undergone a horrific emergency C-section and had grown too devoted to their son Kaelo.

However, because the infant slept next to the couple, Tshepho and Lerato had limited opportunity for physical touch and had trouble falling asleep because of their sleeping arrangement.

Tshepho says, "I was terrified to death that I would roll over him.

Tshepho became more isolated when Lerato, 27, began working again. Lerato had a hectic schedule between caring for Kaelo and her work as a school therapist.

Tshepho didn't express his emotions to her since he didn't want to add to her worry. He went through father postpartum depression (PPPD) for seven months before realising it.

In the third trimester of their partner's pregnancy, 13.3% of expecting men report heightened levels of depressive symptoms, according to a research by Dr. Brandon Eddy et al., "Forgotten Fathers: Postpartum Depression in Men." Regarding the postpartum period, a research from 2007 titled "Sad Dad: Paternal Postpartum Depression" by Dr. Pilyoung Kim et al. suggests that between 4% and 25% of males experience PPPD in the first two months following birth.

According to the studies mentioned above, PPPD symptoms are similar to those of mother postpartum depression and include irritability or impatience, an easy tendency to get stressed out, a sense of discouragement, exhaustion, a lack of drive, and social isolation from family and friends.

Some signs of paternal postpartum depression appear to be more prevalent.

Sheehan Fisher, PhD, a clinical psychologist specialising in prenatal issues, asserts that men and women may experience their depressed symptoms differently.

According to studies on the idea of "masculine depression," males may report and exhibit externalising behaviours, such violence, hypersexuality, and drug abuse (such as alcohol), in reaction to depression.

Tshepho's rage built up inside of him, but he never let it out. He wanted to be more involved in Kaelo's relationship, but he felt left out when the two had trouble connecting.

It only made him feel lonely, he claims. I remained silent while providing any assistance I could.

Dr. Sarah Allen, a TikTok psychologist and the executive director of the Postpartum Depression Alliance of Illinois, notes that it's not unusual for males to suppress feelings of melancholy, hopelessness, or guilt.

Men may experience internal tension between what they believe a man should be and feel like and how they actually feel, the author adds.

Men may experience internal tension between what they believe a man should be and feel like and how they actually feel. Picture: Pexels/ Nappy

According to Kay Matthews, creator of the Shades of Blue Project, which aims to aid minority women with postpartum depression and anxiety, "they go into shutdown mode." "Instead of expressing their annoyance, they act out in some way."

Tshepho claims that by suppressing his emotions, he ultimately "crumbled," resulting in an altercation where the pair even talked about divorcing one another. He says, "I felt so lonely and I couldn't handle it any longer."

It was a "lightbulb moment," according to Lerato. She understood that her preoccupation with their son had prevented her from paying attention to or even seeing what her husband had been going through.

Instead of divorcing, the couple decided to get back together. Tshepho says he's grateful he got the chance to express his worries and was greeted by a partner who was prepared to work through it with him. Kaelo is now two years old.

Although the couple's recent miscarriage at 16 weeks was distressing, according to Tshepho, the work they'd done to improve their communication made it simpler for them to meet each other's emotional needs.

He says, "I'm really close to our son, and we've established a balance. "It was a major issue for me to let myself feel these emotions and talk about them. In the past, I might have been more inclined to suppress my emotions in an effort to give Lerato's sentiments more room.

The Dlaminis are now devoted to raising awareness of the stigma associated with mental health. Even more so, Lerato blogs about her experiences.

According to experts, there are several treatments for paternal postpartum depression, but they often involve counselling and the dispensing of an antidepressant such as SSRI.

Matthews also emphasises the potential benefits of nutrition, exercise, and meditation in reducing the symptoms of depression.

Recognising that mental illness affects people of all backgrounds is the first step. Dads can experience depression, just like everyone else. You can get assistance if you or someone you love is displaying symptoms of depression.

For the treatment of depression and other mental diseases, organisations like the Post Natal Depression Support Association and the Perinatal Mental Health Project provides support groups, education, and other services.