Can men get post-partum depression too?

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, April 30, 2018

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MOST new parents will talk for days about the baby bliss they experienced when they first held their little bundle of joy, but not many people speak about the other end of the spectrum — post-partum depression (PPD) and its horrors. It's a condition common to women who have just given birth, and some new fathers have also shown symptoms of being down in the dumps.

But can dejection in men following the birth of a baby be classified as PPD?

“PPD is due to the abrupt hormonal changes associated with delivery which may be compounded by a difficult birth experience and difficulty a woman experiences adjusting to caring for a baby and herself,” obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Anna-Kay Taylor Christmas explained.

“For the father, he may have a hard time adjusting to his new role especially if there are other stressors like illness in the baby, the mother, or financial difficulties. It may be severe enough to trigger depression. As with the mother, those who have a history of depression are at greater risk.” Dr Jordan Hardie added that for men, other issues with the birth may bring on feelings of sadness.

“I have learnt that some of the spouses cry in the waiting area. I was completely clueless to this but I am, however, not surprised. Some men perceive themselves as the breadwinners and the heads of the household and as such may not be able to meet all financial needs of their family. Children are an additional expense, sometimes unplanned for. The cost of antenatal care, delivery, and then of course the baby arrives — another mouth to feed. So I am not surprised they may become overwhelmed,” he said.

However, they both explained that this depression in men wouldn't be classified as PPD.

Psychiatrist Dr Geoffrey Walcott calls it more of an adjustment disorder — when someone has difficulty coping with a stressor and meets criteria outlined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), he or she can be diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

Dr Walcott said the DSM-5 defines adjustment disorder as the presence of emotional or behavioural symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor occurring within three months of the onset of the stressor.

Further, he pointed to an article written by author Tanya J Peterson that explained in lay terms the various components of adjustment disorder, mainly pointing out that in addition to the exposure to one or more stressors, the DSM-5 criteria for adjustment disorder must be present.

“Symptoms must be clinically significant — they cause marked distress and impairment in functioning. Distress and impairment [should be] related to the stressor and are not an escalation of existing mental health disorders, and the reaction isn't part of normal bereavement,” he said.

“Once the stressor is removed or the person has begun to adjust and cope, the symptoms must subside within six months,” he added in reference to Peterson's article.

He explained that when diagnosing an adjustment disorder, one of the main DSM criteria is that its symptoms must occur in response to a stressor and must happen first, before a diagnosis of anxiety disorder, depression, or other mental health disorder.

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