Post Natal Depression – Not Just for Moms

As the mother of three children, I remember thinking after the birth of my first born and then two subsequent children, “why doesn’t anyone tell the truth about how stressful having a baby – having children –  really is?”  There were plenty of other new mom’s Icould commensurate with about the reality, opposed to the romanticized version, of child birth and motherhood.

It took time and many personal adjustments to fit myself into the role of “mom”, but not without lots of anxiety, reading many parenting books and having a sense that I was “learning on the job” with not prior training or knowledge of how to “do this”.

The fact that moms can feel that way comes as no surprise to those of us who have children. What does surprise people, however, is that many dads also can experience high anxiety, stress and post natal depression after the birth of their children.

In a British population study that obtained psychological questionnaires from 8,431 fathers and 11,833 mothers, interesting data related to postnatal depression in fathers emerged. The study gathered data at three different intervals after the birth of the child: at 8 weeks, 21 months and 3.5 years.

The outcomes identified that children born to fathers who experience post natal depression are twice as likely, at the age of 3 years old, to have behavioral problems compared to children born to fathers who do not experience post natal depression. This was found to be consistent even after maternal depression was factored out.

What parents are often not prepared for after the joyful birth of their child is the accompanying loss of their personal identity as (1) an autonomous individual and (2) a romantic partner. After the birth of a baby the child becomes, and rightfully so, the center of concern and attention. The personal and social time and activities, which was before “couple-centered” now becomes “baby-centered”.

Spouses can feel abandoned, lonely or isolated from their partner after the birth of even the most long awaited and beloved child. Parenthood brings with it enormous joy and equally enormous stresses. It is healthier to discuss such feelings and express the negative as well as the positive emotions of parenthood, then to feel guilty and turn our frustrations into depression. As always the three important rules to sustaining a happy relationship and family are: communicate, communicate, communicate.

With all good wishes,

Copyright 2010 G. Donadio