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Postpartum depression can happen in fathers, too

Sleep disruptions and hormone changes drive up risk for both mothers and fathers.
Christopher Rose with his daughter and wife.
Posted at 2:49 PM, Jun 14, 2024

Postpartum and mental health is often associated solely with motherhood. But fathers can experience postpartum depression, too.

Depression and anxiety disorders during pregnancy and the after birth of a child impact the family unit and developing child.

Sleep disruptions and hormone changes drive up risk for both mothers and fathers.

San Francisco dad Christopher Rose shared his story with Scripps News. He has a term for himself and his wife Lisette Lopez-Rose: pandemic first-time parents.

“That's where a lot of my depression kind of started, I would say. I heard my daughter's heartbeat for the first time over FaceTime,” he said.

A day after their daughter Sybil was born. They were back at home. He says they weren't fully mentally prepared.

“I think one of the birthing nurses mentioned something about postpartum. But in that moment of my daughter being born, I’m not thinking about that. I’m looking at my daughter for the first time. I'm looking at my wife, who was amazing.”

Research shows 8% to 10% of fathers in the U.S. experience postpartum depression in the year after their child is born, most commonly within  3 to 6 months.

Christopher Rose with his daughter.
Christopher Rose with his daughter.

That could be an undercount. Last year, researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago found 30% of a group of fathers screened positive for postpartum depression using the same tool that is commonly used to screen moms.

“Not only postpartum depression, but depression in general, in men is often expressed as irritability and aggression rather than sadness and crying,” Ronald Levant, psychology professor emeritus at The University of Akron and author of “The problem with men: Insights on overcoming a traumatic childhood from a world-renowned psychologist,” told Scripps News. He was not involved with the UIC study.

Mental health experts recommend considering support groups, hotlines, male friendships and therapy as options for help. Psychologist Dr. Daniel Singley runs parenting classes and support groups for parents managing their mental health. In 2017, he founded International Father's Mental Health Day, the Monday after Father’s Day.

“The overall point of International Father's Mental Health Day is not to sugarcoat. It's not all rainbows and unicorns. We have highs and we have joys that are lovely. But it's also the case that men and fathers struggle and suffer,” he said. “It's disingenuous to act like, ‘No, you know, we're just tough and strong and whatever happens, we don't care. It doesn't matter. It bounces off us.’ Like, it does land. It does matter. When you become a father, that becomes part of your role and your identity. And some of that can be painful while it's developing.”

Chris Rose now leads his own peer support group with nonprofit Postpartum Support International. The group helps people find support resources online and in their own communities. Parents can call the PSI Helpline at 1-800-944-4773 (English and Spanish), or text “help” to 1-800-944-4773 (English) or 971-203-7773 (Spanish).

This Father’s Day, Rose says he's celebrating more than just being dad. He's celebrating families, togetherness and mental health.