Awareness about postpartum depression (PPD) rose when well-known women began opening up about having it. Actresses like Brooke Shields and Drew Barrymore shared their experiences with PPD with the public, raising awareness about a condition that not many understand.
While PPD is more commonly diagnosed in women, it turns out that dads develop it as well. Unfortunately, however, men with PPD haven't gotten the same kind of reception. When “OutDaughtered” star Adam Busby revealed his PPD, for example, he was met with scorn and was told to “man up”.
In spite of people's disbelief or scorn, however, PPD in fathers is actually very real. 10% of men have reported experiencing symptoms of depression in the first few months after a child's birth. This is around double the typical rates of depression among men.
Researchers think that hormones have something to do with PPD in men, just as they do with women. In fact, testosterone, the male hormone, may have something to do with PPD in women as well.
Testosterone is an important hormone in men. It's what promotes the development and maintenance of male secondary sex characteristics like body hair, muscle mass, sexual arousal, and competitive behavior. Apparently, it also has an important role to play in a father's postnatal involvement. However, lower testosterone levels have been linked to feelings of depression, and may also play a role in postpartum depression in men.
Apparently, testosterone dips around the time that a male's offspring is born. This, however, isn't unique to humans. In animal species in which biparental care—both mother and father caring for offspring—is common, the fathers exhibit lower testosterone levels when their offspring is born.
A study suggests that when fathers spend more time taking care of their offspring, their testosterone levels may decrease as a result. The men in the study experienced more of a decrease in testosterone than men who stayed single.
Testosterone in men also doesn't begin to drop when the child is born. It starts dropping even during the early stages of pregnancy. Interestingly, men who experienced more of a drop in testosterone were also more likely to report being more committed to their child and partner. A drop in testosterone may thus be instrumental in keeping fathers attached to their partner and child, which may increase their chances of survival.
New research now seeks to explore the link between lower testosterone levels and depression specifically in men with infant children. According to these findings, since men experience a drop in testosterone during the postpartum period, they're more at risk of developing depression.
Surprisingly, this study also found that women whose male partners are experiencing lower testosterone levels seem to be less likely to experience PPD. If you remember, men with lower testosterone levels tend to be more committed to their partner and child. Thus, women whose partners have lower testosterone report higher relationship satisfaction. Men who are more committed to their infant may also be more capable of relieving some pressures off of their partner.
Thus, it's best if we keep a more open mind on the likelihood that men do experience postpartum depression as well.
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