Psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere talks about how common it is for men to experience postpartum depression.

By TheGrio Staff 

Father’s Day is coming up and something that new fathers might be experiencing, without realizing it, is postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is “a mood disorder involving intense psychological depression that typically occurs within one month after giving birth, lasts more than two weeks, and is accompanied by other symptoms (such as social withdrawal, difficulty in bonding with the baby, and feelings of worthlessness or guilt).”

Postpartum was always linked to something only moms could experience, but studies show that 1 in 10 dads struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety as well.

Because it’s more common than we’ve been taught, but less talked about, postpartum in men has become a taboo subject. TheGrio’s Natasha S. Alford talks to psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere about how new dads can cope with dealing with postpartum and what causes it.

The following is a transcript of their conversation.

Natasha S. Alford [00:00:04] When we hear the phrase postpartum depression, we often associated with mothers. But new research shows that 1 in 10 dads may suffer from postpartum depression as well.

So what are the signs and what is the best way to cope as a parent to a new baby? Psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere joins us now with some answers. First of all, Dr. Gardere, so happy to see you on the show and wishing you a happy Father’s Day today.

Dr. Jeff Gardere [00:00:30] Thank you so very much. It’s such a special day and happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there. You are the father.

Alford [00:00:39] That’s right. You are the father and you deserve some love today. What’s interesting, Dr. Jeff, is that when you think of postpartum, you often think of motherhood, right?

I remember I got all these pamphlets when I had a baby advising me what to do, but nothing was given to my son’s father really, about preparing for that. So what is that like for men? What are some of the causes of postpartum depression for new fathers?

Gardere [00:01:06] That’s right. Just like the stat that you gave 1 in 10 dads do have postpartum. We do know that it really does happen to them at any time before or after the pregnancy. But during the first trimester, most often and highest during that third through six months of the child’s birth.

But some of the causes include hormones, less testosterone, their partners perhaps being stressed or having postpartum depression and being sympathetic to them, being disconnected from the whole process you talked about with your husband, the issue being that they didn’t really give him any information. And quite often we see the focus is the mom as it should be, but now we know much more.

We really should include the dads. And of course, if dads have a history of depression or some adjustment issues, sleep deprivation that comes with having a baby, that comes with the pregnancy, all of those things contribute. But the important point is dads do have postpartum depression. If we didn’t know it before, we know it now and we really should be doing something about it.

Alford [00:02:22] For sure and Dr. Jeff, help us unpack some of the emotions. Right. For people who don’t understand, you are a father. What are some of the complicated emotions you might be going through as you’re looking at a new baby or, you know, in a relationship or not in a relationship with the mother, but trying to sort through this next chapter.

Gardere [00:02:41] Right. So if you’re in the relationship with the mom, as we know, relationships do have ups and downs and during a pregnancy, it is a very special time and we really should look at more positivity. But it’s also one of the most stressful times in a relationship. So that can affect dads and dads can have that kind of anxiety and adjustment that goes along with it.

If you’re not in a relationship with the mom, that becomes a very special problem because whatever issues you may be having now, that becomes in many ways an impediment to being with the child. But I think one of the things that we really need to pay attention to dads are fraidy cats.

I’m saying it straight up where we see the child as being so fragile, we don’t know how to hold the child. We’re afraid of dropping the child. Is the child talking at the right time? And all of those things that we go through.

So, thank you, Natasha, for being a great mom, because you are a model really for the stability that moms most often have if they’re not having postpartum depression. And we as men, our anxiety really does get in our way.

Alford [00:03:55] Well, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it. And I think it’s important we have the conversation because there’s so many jokes that sort of normalize, oh well, a father maybe not doing as much or what are you stressed about compared to what a mother is stressed about? And I think that as we normalize those emotions, you can actually deal with them.

And I also want to acknowledge that there are fathers who are in same-gender loving relationships. Right. And so, you know, you may not necessarily be with a female partner, but you’re trying to figure out this parenting thing and it’s not easy.

Gardere [00:04:27] Yes. And thanks for bringing that up, because when we look at same gender loving, folks tend to not look at the special challenges they have, but the challenges are just the same also as any heterosexual couple are having.

But we have to pay attention to that and talk about that, too. We cannot discount our brothers or our sisters in that way.

Alford [00:04:51] Absolutely. So, what do you think is the best way to seek help? If you’re a new dad, you’re feeling depressed, and you may have a partner who is just as stressed or seems more stressed. How do you get help and support?

Gardere [00:05:05] Well, the old go-to, right? Making sure that psychotherapy is available, especially if you’re having a real clinical adjustment problem or you have a history of depression in your own family. It’s also important that you talk to other dads who may be going through that or other moms going through it and being a support for one another.

But something else, being very involved from the beginning of the pregnancy, making sure that you are valued as a dad, as a partner, making sure that you’re making decisions along with your partner, who’s giving birth to that child or bringing that child into the home. And more than anything else, understanding that this is a very special time.

And instead of seeing it too much as a problem or a challenge, just see it as more of a blessing. And finding the positivity in it as much as possible.

Alford [00:06:09] Yes. And it does get better. Those first few weeks and months are not easy, but it does get better. Dr. Jeff, I hope you have a great Father’s Day and you do something fun today and enjoy yourself. You doing something fun, right? You take care of yourself today?

Gardere [00:06:26] Absolutely. My six children are taking me out to dinner. I like to say I’m like the old man in the shoe. I have so many kids, I don’t know what to do. But now it’s payback time. And they all going to take me out to dinner.

Alford [00:06:40] That’s good. Enjoy the day with your babies. You truly, truly deserve it. And thank you for helping us shed some light on a very important issue.

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