We know that postpartum depression in mothers is real, and serious. New research from the University of Southern California shows some interesting things about the possibility that dads can have postpartum depression as well.
After a baby is born, the focus of health and well-being tends to be on the baby, and hopefully, on the mother, though we know there’s more that could be done to foster better postpartum maternal health. But there is little focus on fathers. After all, nothing happened to their bodies during pregnancy.
Or did it?
Researchers from the University of Southern California have found that 10% of men report symptoms that mirror depression following the birth of a child, and this is almost twice the average rate of depression in men. The researchers found that men face higher risks of this postpartum depression if testosterone levels drop after children are born (which is common, and often attributed to sleep deprivation, work demands with a new baby, etc.).
In conducting the research, which looked at 149 couples up to 15 months after they had a child, the researchers also found that the dads who had lower testosterone levels may show more depressive symptoms, but their partners tended to have higher satisfaction in relationships. Men who had spiked testosterone levels seemed more prevalent to display hostile behavior toward their partners, and the women who had lower-testosterone partners were found to have fewer symptoms of depression when assessed at nine and fifteen months postpartum.
Lead author of the study, Darby Saxbe, said that the prevailing thought is that biology drives motherhood, but there is much to be found in the biology of fathers as well. Clearly, fathers can play pivotal roles in raising children, Saxbe says, and it’s pertinent to look into the science behind involvement in child-rearing and their fathers. The research suggests that dads with lower testosterone levels tend to be more involved in child-rearing, even though claiming to have more depressive symptoms, and this increased involvement may be why their partners feel more satisfied in relationships, despite their partners’ depression.
The research also suggests that when fathers are identified as having lower testosterone levels, supplements to balance testosterone may actually have a negative effect on both their child-rearing involvement, and their behaviors with their partners and children.