Father looking at infant laying on the ground, postpartum depression in men

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and many social media posts rightly focus on postpartum mental health concerns for mothers. They share warning signs and statistics. They try to destigmatize mental health issues related to being a mom, especially in those postpartum weeks and months. I had an awareness of these statistics and realities long before I became pregnant with my first child. What I didn’t realize was the prevalence of postpartum disorders in men. And I didn’t expect my husband to suffer from postpartum depression.

We were overjoyed to learn we were expecting a baby last year. It was a first for us both, and our families were incredibly supportive. We are in our 30s, married, and the timing couldn’t have been better. My pregnancy was largely uneventful. The baby was growing, I felt good, and we bought a nice family home in a neighborhood we both loved.

The Birth

To make a long story short, the baby came a few weeks earlier than expected. After a long labor and delivery, the baby was whisked away to the NICU to be checked out. I had some medical complications that required a week-long hospital stay, and the baby spent a few days getting additional medical care. This greatly upset my husband, as I wasn’t able to visit the baby at first. He didn’t want to visit the baby, even though he could, because I couldn’t. I logically understood that the baby was getting good medical care, but all I wanted was for someone to hold our little bundle of joy. My husband was angry about the whole thing. 

Coming Home

Arriving home was a bit overwhelming, as I’m sure it is for any parents of a newborn. We were trying to figure out feeding and sleeping and were really just surviving. My husband returned to work the day after we returned home from the hospital. He didn’t want to come to the first pediatrician appointment with me, which I wasn’t thrilled about. He didn’t need to work in those early days; he chose to work. Luckily, my sister came to visit that first week, and she was a lifesaver. 

As time went on, my husband was more irritable when he got home from work at night. I was beyond exhausted, and he often shut himself up in the guest room, leaving me to fend for myself with a baby whose feeding situation didn’t get figured out for ten weeks. Translation: I was up every 2-3 hours to feed the baby, who was using formula pretty early on. I felt abandoned. And this was every night, not just nights when my husband had to work the next day.

At my six-week postpartum visit, the doctor asked how I was. I broke down in tears and said my husband wasn’t helping me at all. Every single night, I was alone for 12 hours, and the baby wouldn’t sleep for more than 3 at best. I said I can’t keep doing it. She asked me if my husband was a pilot or a surgeon. I said he was neither. She then told me there was no reason why he couldn’t help me get a 6-hour stretch of sleep at night, especially since the baby had formula. Did I want to schedule another appointment to bring him with me so she could tell him?

I so appreciated that she was trying to help me, but I didn’t want to schedule another appointment for her to talk to my husband. I didn’t think it would help. Finding a different formula did help, finally. I thought things would get better from there.

Return to Work

But when I went back to work, my husband took on more childcare than we had planned. We couldn’t find infant daycare. My job had set daytime hours, but his job didn’t. Translation: I would come home in the afternoon to a tornado from their day. Every day. I was then left alone with the baby after dinner until the morning, when my husband emerged from the guest room, grumpily taking the baby. I often drove to work in tears. It was a lot for us both.

I sought therapy when the baby was six months old. I thought it would help me to cope with the traumatic birth situation that still made me cry when I thought about it. While that was my reason for starting therapy, I still continue because of my relationship with my husband and our relationship postpartum. I came to realize that his behaviors were consistent with postpartum depression in men. I was shocked to learn that 1 in 10 men develop postpartum depression. And 18% of men develop an anxiety disorder at some point during pregnancy or in their child’s first year of life. 

Resources for Dads

Postpartum Support International offers various support for dads, including a helpline that connects dads to local resources. They also offer virtual support groups and videos.

Check out the program calendar for the Cape Cod Children’s Place in Eastham. They offer a huge variety of programs for families on the Lower Cape. They have a few dad’s groups, including a virtual support group. 

The Coalition for Children is a huge community resource for Upper Cape families. They offer a variety of support groups, including groups for dads. 

The newly launched Massachusetts Behavioral Health Line offers 24/7 support and access to resources for anyone in Massachusetts who is struggling. Call or text 833-773-2445 or visit their website here.

Luckily, there are local, statewide, and international support opportunities for all parents. While there has been a great push to destigmatize postpartum disorders in women, I hope postpartum depression and anxiety in men will be more widely acknowledged. I never could have imagined my husband suffering from postpartum depression. I hope more families can receive support sooner than we did.

Cape Cod Moms
Passionate about parenting and the Cape & Islands community, Cape Cod Moms strives to connect area moms to relevant resources, local businesses, can’t-miss happenings, and most of all — each other!


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