PND in Dads is not a fallacy


The main reason I started this blog was to lend a voice to the experience of having a baby after postpartum depression. At that time, my advocacy for families struggling with Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders was in its infancy.

Over the past few years, my experiences, both personal and online, have lent to an understanding that it’s not only moms who experience depression after the birth of a child.

I’ve interviewed dads like Joel Schwartzberg and Jeff Tow who have personally experienced it. I’ve lived with a dad who experienced it. I’ve spoken with experts who have conducted research in the area and also with experts such as Dr. Will Courtenay, who provide counseling and support for men who experience what is properly termed as “Paternal Postnatal Depression.”

Yesterday, The Guardian published a piece by Barbara Ellen entitled, ” ‘Postnatally depressed’ dads? Give me a break.” I read it this morning as yesterday I was on the road. Barely awake and still blinking to bring words into focus, I saw a tweet on my timeline referring to the article. I clicked. It was a response post by the folks over at Mind Hacks. I knew this required more response than I could provide via Twitter. So here I am.

The Guardian has a less than stellar record when it comes to Postnatal Depression stories to begin with so I’m not terribly surprised they allowed something such as this to be posted. More often than not, stories involving PND at The Guardian include gruesome details with no trigger warnings, and they also link to further triggering articles. No resources or further information is ever given.

Let’s begin by examining the definition of postnatal:

post·na·tal (pst-ntl) adj. Of or occurring after birth, especially in the period immediately after birth.

It states “after birth,” yes? It does not state “after giving birth.” Postnatal depression, for most women, is intrinsically linked to childbirth, but according to Ms. Ellen, adoptive parents are also excluded from the experience of Postnatal depression because they fail her test for the qualifications to achieve proper “Postnatal Depression” legitmacy:

“Were hormonal levels tested? Was postpartum bruising measured? How about the emergence of a human head in what – in deference to what might be your leisurely Sunday breakfast – I will refer to as the front-bottom area?”

What about women who had a cesarean section? Given that their child also did not technically emerge from “the front bottom area”, are they also excluded from experiencing Postnatal depression?

Ms. Ellen, in her bashing of men who experience Postnatal Depression, does not just bash them. She completely denigrates any experience of Postnatal Depression. It’s clear she read the research but I wonder if she bothered to even talk to any men who have experienced Paternal Postnatal Depression. Or frankly, if she even cares to, given her obvious feelings on the topic:

“The research from Oxford University is all about new fathers becoming stressed and depressed, their condition triggered by the sleepless nights, strain and the responsibilities of parenthood. I believe the official medical term for this is: “Pissed off, knackered and yearning to be carefree again.” “

The addition of an infant, to any relationship, is a difficult one. There are sleepless nights, there is strain, and there absolutely are responsibilities of parenthood. Some of us fight even darker demons after the birth of a child, regardless of our gender, regardless of how (or even if) we gave birth, and, regardless of our socioeconomic status.

I watched my former spouse fight Paternal Postnatal Depression as I fought my own battles with Postpartum OCD, Depression, and PTSD. His experience is no less valid than my own, and I certainly did not feel as Ms. Ellen states I should have felt,

“…were having to put up with such exhausting narcissists as partners – men incapable of hiding their sulky self-absorption…”

There’s an importance in acknowledging men with depression after the birth of a child. Why? Because men are far more likely than women to complete suicide. They are also more likely to TAKE THEIR FAMILIES WITH THEM.

This is not solely a male v. female issue. This is not men attempting to lay claim to “…a foul, debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” This is a family issue, just as it is with a mom. This is a mental health issue. Men, yes, are capable of experiencing depression. It doesn’t make them any less of a man, it doesn’t mean we suddenly have to contend with “male PND.” It means we should be understanding, accepting, and supportive of fathers, a group who is largely forgotten after the birth of a child and is simply assumed to carry on as if his life has not changed.

Men are more involved in the childbirth experience than ever before. They are in the delivery room, they are staying home to take care of their children, and they are engaging in their children’s lives. Why shouldn’t we acknowledge their struggle? Men experiencing emotion is not new. It’s simply not accepted by society and therefore brushed under the rug.

Let’s stop doing this.

As I told my son, who broke down in tears after Skyping with his Dad, it’s okay for him to cry. Anyone telling him any differently is wrong. It’s okay for a man to cry. It’s possible for a man to be depressed after the birth of a child – it’s not him feeling “pissed off, knackered, or yearning to be carefree.”

Stop giving ignorance a platform, dear media. Just stop.

Saturday Sundries 03.05.11: Husbands and Baby Blues


Welcome, y’all!

This morning I jumped out of bed, thinking I only had 20 minutes to get dressed and travel to my church for a Women’s Brunch. Turns out I had 50 minutes. I took the time to do dishes before I left. Once I arrived, I felt so blessed and loved. Women of all ages sat together at tables and shared their inspirations for daily faith and Christ-like living. One of the older women at my table cried as she shared her story. I left filled with a sense of camaraderie and connection with several new women in my Church. I am so grateful for the ability to meet in the open with people of the same faith – to be able to speak freely of my beliefs and of Christ’s power within my own life. There are so many places in the world where if you even mention Christ, you will be put to death. But not here.

I spoke of my Postpartum Depression and how God has used that to change my life and allow me to reach out to several women on a daily basis. You know what y’all? Not ONE woman at that table judged me for my hospitalization. Not one woman at that table loved me any less or told me I failed as a mother because I had Postpartum Depression. I know I speak about Postpartum Depression all the time online but I don’t get the opportunity to talk about it in person very often. To sit in sisterhood at a table with other mothers and not be judged for my experiences – WOW. So very grateful and blessed.

Today, I don’t have specific questions to answer. The questions I’ll be addressing are based on search terms which led people to my blog within the past seven days. If people are looking for these topics, I want to provide information to answer their unasked questions.

I wish every one of you a wonderful Saturday – one filled with insight, peace, and happiness.

And as always, take care of YOU first.

*The answers given here are written by me, a non-health care professional. I’m a mom who has been through hell with Postpartum twice, ante-natal depression once and has dedicated her life to learning all there is to know about Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Please check with your healthcare provider prior to implementing any of the information you may find below. It is NOT meant to be and/or replace professional advice or orders.

 

1) Should baby blues last for more than 4 weeks?

No. The blues should not last for more than 4 weeks. It may take up to 4 weeks for the blues to dissipate completely but if you are consistently experiencing what you feel are the blues for a solid 4 weeks, you really should talk with your doctor. Postpartum Depression also does not just manifest as “the blues.” There are other issues which are also included in the Postpartum spectrum. Anxiety, irritability, anger, intrusive thoughts, and obsessive-compulsive behavior are all symptoms that may manifest in an episode of a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Up to 80% of all new moms experience the blues. As many as 20% of those who experience the blues go on to develop a Postpartum Mood Disorder. Just because your symptoms of the blues are continuing past 4 wks does not mean you are developing a serious case of Postpartum Depression. But you should absolutely go see a health professional to explore what’s going on with you. Be sure to ask for a thyroid panel, an iron level check, and a Vitamin D level check to rule out any health issues for your continued struggles. It’s beyond important to get the Thyroid panel as Anti-depressants will NOT help with a thyroid issue – and may actually make things worse for someone with a severe thyroid issue, therefore delaying successful treatment and recovery. It’s also very important (and hard) not to blame yourself for Postpartum Depression. You have not done anything to deserve this or to cause this to happy. There is help, there is hope – and you are absolutely not alone as your journey toward recovery.

2) How does husband cope with postpartum?

There are several ways in which a husband copes with postpartum. The answer to this question really lies in what the person asking meant.

Does she mean if HE has postpartum? Or does she mean if SHE has postpartum? And then – does she mean What’s the best way for him to cope? Or how do most husbands in general cope with postpartum? I want to address all of those below in as succinct  a manner as possible.

If HE has postpartum: Men & women exhibit different symptoms when it comes to depression. Men keep quiet. They will stay at work longer, avoid home, self-medicate, get angry and irritable, shift blame, shirk responsibilities, blame themselves for the failure. If your husband is suddenly not at home as much, angry, frustrated, and not smiling or as easy going as usual – it might be time to try to get him to a healthcare professional. A great website to learn more can be found at Postpartum Men. It’s run by Dr. Will Courtenay, who is an expert in Male Depression. Dr. Courtenay is amazing and truly knows the male psyche. If you suspect your husband is struggling with depression, visit Dr. Courtenay’s site and then sit down to talk with your partner. Let him know you won’t judge him and encourage him to get help for himself and for his family.

If SHE has postpartum: He needs to avoid telling her to snap out of her depression first and foremost. Dive in with the chores, housework, and baby duty. Take older kids out to play. Change diapers before mom nurses at night or if she’s sleeping (those precious extra moments of sleep are heavenly). Also, he should read this cheat sheet for a fabulous list of things to say to his wife. Support her going to doctor’s appointments but don’t force her UNLESS she’s clearly expressed intent to harm herself or others. Never every sneak attack a psychiatric appointment on your wife. Bad juju.Very Bad juju. Ask how you can help. And then do it. Don’t wait for her to ask – because she won’t. Bottom line, love her, support her, and help with the work around the house. Give her time to heal and recover. It’ll be a thankless job but one day, she’ll tell you thank you. Trust me. I’m eternally grateful for the support I received from my husband during Postpartum. (This also covers the BEST way for him to cope)

How most husbands cope: The most common gut reaction is to deny there’s anything wrong. Some husbands even believe their wives are faking symptoms in order to get out of parenting responsibilities. Still others tell their wives to snap out of it. Or they believe that medication and doctors can’t do anything to help so they don’t support their wives seeking help, instead telling them that they need to suck it up and just tough it out. Husbands are just as shattered as we are when Postpartum strikes. They are lost – the woman they love with all their heart has faded away. She’s gone. In her place is a new woman, a shadow of the woman she once was – the woman she was maybe even hours before… they don’t know how to fix us. So they get angry, scared, and frustrated. They snap at us, not knowing how else to react. I would highly recommend getting a husband reacting in any of the aforementioned ways to attend a doctor’s appointment with you. A doctor will legitimize your experience for your husband. Many husbands have what we call “White Coat Syndrome,” ie, until he hears it from a doctor, it’s not real. It helps to get him to the Doctor because it involves him in the solution, thereby allowing him to “fix” the situation at hand in some way, which is what men excel at – solving problems. It’s not an easy ride with a husband who is not supportive. You’re also not alone in this – but when you have Postpartum, it is so very important to have support at home – get BOTH of you to the doctor as soon as possible. There is hope, even in this.

Saturday Sundries 02.19.11: Talking with your kids about Postpartum Mood Disorders


Hey y’all!  This will be a short yet important post. I’m in the car on my way to the circus in Atlanta with the family. I planned to blog last night but fell asleep on the couch after watching Grey’s.  Woke up long enough to crawl into bed. So here I am. Blogging from my phone at 70mph. Don’t worry. I’m not driving.

Some of you may have older children in the home when Postpartum strikes. They already have a lot to deal with when a baby joins the family. Their role in the family may change from only child to oldest child from youngest to middle child and so on. Issues of jealousy may enter the picture as a result.

Then Postpartum strikes.

Older children may react in one of two primary ways:

  • Self-blame for parental depression
  • Projected blame onto their new sibling for the cause of parental depression

The most important thing kids need to hear is that a parent’s depression is NOT their fault.

I know that’s hard to do when you’re in the midst of hell. We did not talk with our oldest before my Postpartum experience with our second. I had Postpartum with our oldest as well.

We did talk to our daughters about what might happen with Mommy after she had their brother though.  We drove home that it was not anyone’s fault…. not theirs, not their brother’s,  not daddy’s,  not mommy’s. Then, as a family, we brainstormed ways they could help Mommy if she got sad or angry after baby arrived. My oldest planned to tickle Postpartum Depression into oblivion.

Thankfully I did not have Postpartum after the birth of our son. But our daughters knew how to help mommy and would even ask how I was feeling. I think they were looking for an excuse to tickle me!!!

Bottom line: Talk to your kids. Use language appropriate for their age. Answer their questions in an age appropriate manner. Reinforce that Postpartum is not anyone’s fault. Reassure them that Mommy or Daddy will get well. Recruit family members to take older siblings out to do activities and keep their schedule as normal as possible.

Depression affects the entire family but with careful planning your family can come through with flying colors.

Joel Schwartzberg talks with Postpartum Dads Project about Paternal Postnatal Depression


40YROLD.COVER2An interview with Joel Schwartzberg, author of The 40 Year old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad, is featured today over at the Postprtum Dads Project. Joel opens up about his depression after the birth of his son, divorce, and how coming to terms with the dad he is helped him feel comfortable in his “dadhood.”

While male depression after the birth of a child may not have the same underlying causes as a woman’s depression, it remains an important topic to discuss. In fact, if mom is depressed, there’s a 50% chance Dad is depressed as well. Even with the increase in depression rates for new dads, they are still expected to “man up,” as Joel puts it. But this can be hard for Dad to do if he’s struggling with depression. Trying to function while depressed is much like trying to escape from quicksand. The harder you try on your own, the deeper you fall. It’s not until someone holds out a branch of hope that you start to make progress. Emotional health really is a whole family issue. The healthier a family is emotionally, the better they will do in life.

Click here to check out Joel’s story!

A new project – just for DADS!


Ok, ok, so in the interest of full disclosure, I am co-partner in this project. Go check it out already!

ppd-dads-project-logo

New Support Site for Postpartum Dads Launches just in time for the Holidays

The Postpartum Dads Project plans to focus on collecting stories from Dads who have experienced depression themselves or have been with a partner who has experienced a Mood disorder after the birth of a child.

December 5, 2008 – With the goal of getting new Dads to open up about the havoc Postpartum Depression can wreak, the Postpartum Dads Project launches today. The project will also focus on developing a close knit community which would provide Dads a safe haven in which to connect with other fathers with similar experiences.

The project is an outcome of a partnership between Lauren Hale and David Klinker, both Coordinators with Postpartum Support International. Ms. Hale serves as the Co-Coordinator for the state of Georgia while Mr. Klinker serves as the Father’s Coordinator. In June, Ms. Hale featured interviews with Dads and their experiences with Postpartum Depression. Mr. Klinker was one of the Dads featured and this led to further discussion regarding the lack of resources available for Dads.
The Postpartum Dads Project will also be placing emphasis on Paternal Postnatal Depression. This can occur in up to 10% of all new dads. In fact, if a father’s partner is depressed, the father has a fifty percent chance of developing depression himself.

One of the primary goals of the Postpartum Dads Project will be to create a published volume that will include submissions collected through the website. These submissions will be categorized and designed to be read in between calming a fussy baby and watching the game. The development of the website will continue and many of the stories will be found there as well as insights from professionals, tips and hints from other dads who have been in the trenches, as well as the eventual addition of a Dads only forum.

A key addition to the website in the future will be a professionals only area in which professionals will have their own forum and other tools with which to discuss this relatively new area of support.
The Postpartum Project will begin by publishing interviews with Dads and professionals in the know such as Country Music Artist Wade Bowen, Michael Lurie, David Klinker, Dr. William Courtenay and has been granted permission to reprint the interview with Dr. Shoshanna Bennett’s husband, Henry. The Project will also be featured in an upcoming segment at The FatherLife.com.

For additional information on the Postpartum Dads Project, contact info@postpartumdadsproject.org or visit the website at www.postpartumdadsproject.org.

About the Postpartum Dads Project
Lauren Hale and David Klinker are both volunteers with Postpartum Support International. Lauren is very active in Postpartum Peer Support and moderates the iVillage Postpartum Depression Board, runs a local peer support group, writes Unexpected Blessing, a blog dedicated to pregnancy after PPD, and is a stay at home mom of three children. David is the Father’s Coordinator for Postpartum Support International and also runs www.postpartumdads.org. He is strongly dedicated to supporting Fathers throughout the Postpartum Period.

Contact:

info@postpartumdadsproject.org

Lauren Hale, Co-Founder

The Postpartum Dads Project
http://www.postpartumdadsproject.org
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