The Experience of Postpartum Depression in Fathers

The experience of postpartum depression in fathers

Postpartum depression (sometimes referred to as Postnatal depression) is commonly discussed in association with women. It is assumed that with the hormonal and biological changes mothers go through during pregnancy, postpartum depression is only experienced by mothers. However, contrary to to popular belief, fathers too are susceptible postpartum depression. Fathers also have to adjust to their new identity and responsibilities as a parent which can be a very stressful transition for many. In the current study highlighted, researchers examined the experiences of fathers undergoing postpartum depression

Current Study Eddy and colleagues (2019) reviewed a variety of blogs and discussion forums to investigate common signs of PPD and why it is such an under-reported condition. They identified 6 common themes apparent in the numerous anecdotes shared by fathers online. The 6 themes are as follows:

1. Needing education

The researchers noted a lack of knowledge and available resources on paternal PPD. Many fathers were shocked that they were not alone in feeling sadness and isolation upon the birth of their child. Many did not know that men can also experience postpartum depression. Mothers could usually pick up symptoms of paternal PPD displayed by their spouses, such as constant low moods, but very few had considered these symptoms to be due to paternal postpartum depression.

2. Adhering to Gender Expectations

Further contributing to the lack of awareness surrounding paternal postpartum depression are the dominant gender stereotypes prevalent in society. Many participants felt the need to not show any emotional weakness, be the ‘man of the house’ and just “suck it up” when times get tough. Many subjects reported being afraid of ‘acknowledging their thoughts and emotions’ as they felt that it ‘wasn’t becoming of a man or father’. Thus, men who feel depressed are less likely to open up about their experiences as it goes against their masculine identity.

3. Repressed feelings

In line with the difficulty men face when talking about postpartum depression, men tend to bury their feelings and generally avoid letting anyone else in on their feelings. Fathers were worried that by confiding with their wives about their negative emotions, they would be perceived as weak and not taken seriously. One father also shared that he had to hide in his home office before he allowed himself to cry due to the overwhelming stress of having a new child. He did not want to let his wife know that he was struggling as he felt that ‘it will sound ridiculous because she is with the kids more than him’. By not letting anybody else know about their internal turmoil, it makes it extremely difficult for the loved ones to provide them with the support they need.

4. Overwhelmed

Many participants reported feeling extremely exhausted and overwhelmed after becoming a father. In addition to the low mood experienceds, babies’ cries could be even more irritable than usual which reinforces a father’s exhaustion and distress. This cycle creates a very stressful environment for new fathers which affects their sleep patterns and further contributes to postpartum depression. A father even admitted anonymously online that he is ‘constantly on the edge of bursting into tears’ and that he ‘can’t stand his 7-month baby’s cry over more than a few minutes without becoming angry’.

5. Resentment of Baby

Many subjects highlighted the happiness they felt when their child was born. However, the participants commonly reported that they might, at times, resent their babies. Having a baby is also extremely overwhelming and tiring. The constant lack of sleep could magnify frustration towards a crying child. When taken to the extreme, some fathers also disclosed that they were have thoughts of causing physical harm to their baby and themselves. These negative thoughts might then cause them to feel extremely guilty as there are unspoken expectations that parents can only say and feel wonderful things towards their children.

6. The Experience of Neglect

It comes as no surprise that the baby, being the newest and youngest member of the family, tend to receive all of the attention from their mothers. With mothers busying with their newborn, fathers tend to feel increasingly neglected and overlooked by their spouse. It is also rather common for couples to go through disputes during this taxing period. This sense of isolation is further amplified by the lack of organisational support for fathers who struggle emotionally upon the birth of their child. In the United States, mothers are administered with the Edinburgh Depression Scale (EPDS) to detect the symptoms of postpartum depression. However, there are currently no official assessment procedures set in place to screen men for postpartum depression. Therefore, many fathers have anonymously stated that the conversation surrounding postpartum depression has failed to include men which deter more fathers from speaking out about it.

Implications of the study’s findings

The 6 common threads that run through many father’s account of depression emphasises a pressing need to overcome the stigma surrounding paternal postpartum depression. Gender stereotypes have made fathers afraid of speaking up about their depression. This silence has created a façade that fathers are always joyful when dealing with their newborns, which is not true in actuality. This illusion has reinforced many fathers’ reluctance to talk about their feelings as they believe it to be a sign of weakness. As a society, we should encourage men to break this cycle of silence and to reassure fathers that they are not alone in the stress they face.

If you would like to find out more, click here to view some tips on how to spot and help fathers with postpartum depression.


Eddy, B., Poll, V., Whiting, J., & Clevesy, M. (2019). Forgotten Fathers: Postpartum Depression in Men. Journal of Family Issues, 40(8), 1001–1017. doi: 10.1177/0192513x19833111

Article written with Charmaine Leong. Charmaine is a psychology undergraduate from the National University of Singapore (NUS). Charmaine is an aspiring clinical psychologist who is passionate about raising awareness for mental health issues in Singapore. She is currently on internship with ImPossible Psychological Services under the supervision of senior clinical psychologist, Haikal.