Dads can have postpartum depression too

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     Rob Stahl and his son Elias (Photo courtesy of the Stahl family)

    Rob Stahl and his son Elias (Photo courtesy of the Stahl family)

    Postpartum depression can happen to dads, too. It’s the subject of a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s publication on Psychiatry.

    The New Zealand study found about 4 percent of new fathers experienced paternal depression. Researchers think stress and poor health could increase the risk.

    For new dad Rob Stahl of Philadelphia that rings true. He said parenthood was a bigger challenge than he anticipated. Plus, he’s always had some baseline anxiety.

    “And I think having the baby just exacerbated some things that I already experience to some degree,” he said.

    He had active fears about the baby waking up again and again in the middle of the night.

    “And then the baby wakes back up, you have all these feelings that rush back of I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m not good at this, I’m new at this, and he’s crying. What does that mean? And all this kind of stress,” said Stahl.

    “If this is not something you’ve had experience in your life with you often can feel overwhelmed and just sort of out of your element,” said Michael Thase, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s worked with fathers who’ve had a rough time during the postpartum period.

    The study’s authors recommend offering targeted support to dads at risk of developing paternal depression. Thase said doctors could screen prospective fathers for depression, just as many already do for mothers.

    “Just asking how he’s doing, how the partner’s doing, and whether he’s had an increase in depressive symptoms,” he recommended, noting that the condition is more common among women.

    Stahl eventually sought out counseling on his own. But he said he wished he’d gotten more support from his doctor or pediatrician.

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