Postpartum depression: dad can also be affected

Postpartum depression: dad can also be affected

Postpartum depression in men is a relatively little-known phenomenon. Studies are rare and difficulties in talking about it remain, although mental health prevention encourages men to speak out about postpartum depression. Clinical psychologist Claudia Bettelheim-Pechikoff, specializing in perinatal care, sheds some light on the subject.

According to an OpinionWay survey for the Qare teleconsultation platform, 18% of French fathers are affected by postpartum depression after their partner gives birth.

What are the risk factors for postpartum depression in fathers?

If today postpartum depression in mothers is well documented, the question of paternal depression has remained in the shadows for a long time. “The concentration on the maternal figure initially eclipsed issues relating to paternity., declares the psychologist. However, becoming a parent, whether you are a mother or a father, leads to profound psychological upheavals, part of a “identity transformation, reports the specialist. Which can weaken some parents.

Risk factors for postpartum depression are similar for mothers and fathers. Those that we observe most frequently are:

  • Psychiatric history;
  • Social insecurity;
  • Isolation;
  • Childhood traumas;
  • Mourning close to the birth of the child;
  • Professional difficulties.

What are the symptoms that should alert you?

It is not always easy to spot the signs of postpartum depression, both for the person concerned and those around them. Although the symptoms can take different forms, here are the behaviors, after the child's arrival, to take seriously according to psychologist Claudia Bettelheim-Pechikoff:

  • Irritability, anger;
  • Regret, sadness, guilt;
  • Ruminations and dark thoughts;
  • Difficulties attaching to the baby;
  • Avoidance of time shared with the baby (professional overinvestment, excessive outings, etc.)
  • Loss of pleasure in everyday activities;
  • An increase in the use of harmful substances, such as tobacco, drugs and/or alcohol.

How to prevent paternal depression?

Postpartum depression is a disorder that must be taken seriously, as its impact is significant on the child's development. It is therefore important to be aware of it and to take measures aimed at reducing postpartum depression, whether maternal or paternal. So what to do? Psychologist Claudia Bettelheim-Pechikoff judges, however, that it is difficult as an individual to prevent parental depressiveness. “We only speak of depression when the symptoms become radicalized and take up all the psychological space., explains the specialist. “Prevention, in my opinion, involves various actors supporting future parents. Health professionals must be trained to identify possible risk factors and/or clinical signs of postpartum depression. she maintains.

Also, the presence and availability of both parents around the baby helps to lighten the mental load and create a common experience between the spouses. “In this sense, extending paternity leave is also a way to prevent postpartum depression, because it allows this bond to be built over time and with serenity., underlines the psychologist. Thus, according to the expert, it is an opportunity for the father to take his place as co-guarantor of the baby's well-being, and no longer just as his partner's subordinate in parental tasks.

How to get better when depression has already set in?

When depression sets in, it is recommended to consult a professional specialized in perinatal care: midwife, psychologist, pediatrician, child psychiatrist, attending physician, etc. A treatment pathway can thus be coordinated and adapted to each profile and situation. Psychologist Claudia Bettelheim-Pechikoff indicates that psychotherapy is often recommended. “Psychotherapy allows the subject to regain confidence in his ability to be a “good enough parent” and to put his story into perspective with regard to his place and identity as a father.specifies the specialist.

How can the partner help?

Already struggling with the upheavals caused by pregnancy and childbirth, it can be difficult for the spouse to pay special attention to her partner. However, a first help consists of recognizing these signs of unhappiness in the father, by creating a space for communication and welcoming of emotions. “If these symptoms are lasting, it is a matter of kindly letting our partner know that we have noticed a change in behavior, that we are worried about them and of supporting them in some way with the idea that 'he needs to be helped', suggests the psychologist. “Being accompanied by a professional is a proposition that can be rejected, or even denied. However, the idea can gain ground over time.reassures the perinatal specialist.

The psychologist relates the story of one of her patients, who came on the advice of his partner. From the first consultation, signs of paternal depression were highlighted. The patient in question felt no pleasure in sharing time with his daughter and avoided being at home as much as possible. “However, the reception of his words and the links established in psychotherapy allowed him to rediscover the pleasure of taking on his role as a father and becoming attached to his little daughter., explains Claudia Bettelheim-Pechikoff. This patient's story shows that psychotherapy is a treatment in its own right, which allows you to get better.

How can the monitoring of fathers, and of the couple, be improved?

Although there is still significant progress to be made in monitoring fathers during pregnancy, the psychologist notes, however, that the “maternity institution” is increasingly opening the doors to dads. At the same time, it is important to encourage this free speech, during pregnancy follow-up consultations, but also by disseminating more information on male postpartum depression. “It may be interesting, for example, to offer an interview to parents after childbirth to take stock, with a psychologist or pediatrician. Which could constitute a space for prevention”suggests the psychologist.