Postpartum Care for Dads
Much emphasis is given to how important prentatal and postpartum care for moms is, but did you know that antenatal and postpartum care is important for dads too? According to Fatherly 1500 dads per day are diagnosed with postpartum depression. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 10% of men become depressed when a child is born and that it is at its highest rates when the infant is 3 to 6 months old. According to Raising Children, "emotional changes that last longer than two weeks and get in the way of your or your partner’s daily life could be depression." Even if a mom is being screened, her postpartum visit is usually 6 weeks following birth. Dad's mental health can easily be overlooked-especially if he isn't expressing feelings well. Men experience symptoms of postpartum depression differently. According to the Pacific Post Partum Support Society men me display "Increased anger and conflict with others, Increased use of alcohol or prescription/street drugs, frustration or irritability, violent behaviour, significant weight gain or loss, Isolation from family and friends, being easily stressed, Impulsiveness or risk taking (this kind of behaviour can include reckless driving or extramarital affairs), feeling discouraged; cynicism, Increase in complaints about physical problems, like headaches, digestion problems or pain, problems with concentration or motivation, Loss of interest in work, hobbies and/or sex. working constantly, concerns about productivity and functioning at work or school, fatigue,feeling sad or crying for no reason, conflict between how you feel you should be as a man and how you are, thoughts of suicide or death."
There are many factors that can contribute to postpartum depression in men. They may feel disconnected from the baby and have a hard time bonding. Dads don't get to experience movements of the baby in utero as moms do. My husband described it as feeling like he was "watching someone else play a video game." Even though I'd tell him what I was experiencing and feeli
ng as the baby moved around 23 weeks, he felt like he was missing out on the experience and not getting it first hand He was eventually able feel kicks and later into my third trimester could watch my growing belly dancing and shifting side to side with each kick and turn. Dads can also feel a disconnect with breastfeeding. Moms get the skin to skin bonding and benefits of oxytocin release and relaxing effects of milk let down and feeding. Dads can help with diapering and bath time to help foster creating a bond.
Like moms, with a newborn, new dads have to adjust to lack of sleep, identifying as parent, and changes in lifestyle much like moms do. Adjusting to going back into a work routine plus caring for a newborn can also cause a strain. Even if a dad is offered paternity leave, many times it is much shorter than maternity leave and finances may make it necessary for dads to return to work even earlier due do moms needing more time off work for breastfeeding or if the dad is the sole bread winner.
In addition to mental stress, physical stress also takes its toll on new dads. Infants seem small but extended cradling, repetitive lifting in and out of cribs and onto changing tables can cause neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Also carrying an infant in the carseat can cause postural problems, leading to subluxations (misalignments of the vertebrae). Lack of sleep and poor sleeping posture can also cause pain and can make the dad more prone to headaches.
If you know a new dad or your significant other seems to have symptoms of postpartum depression, talk to him about it. Being a new parent and even being a parent for the 2nd time or more can be very stressful and make relationships difficult. Postpartum depression occurs more commonly in men who have a history of depression and also can coincide with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if the mom has had a traumatic and difficult labor and delivery. If you are a dad struggling with these concerns, get checked by a chiropractor for evaluation of potential vertebral subluxation complex. Along with helping your nervous system to function better, he or she can help give you nutritional recommendations to help with energy, stress management, and mood, as well as refer you to a medical doctor or counselor for extra help. Many times see moms regularly throughout her pregnancy for chiropractic are and the baby shortly after birth, but lots of times the dads aren't under care as often as they should be to help promote more optimal nervous system function. Dads play a vital role in the family to help support moms and their babys and its important for them to be functioning at their best.
Fortunately pediatricians' offices are starting to screen both parents for postpartum depression, but some medical doctors aren't aware that postpartum depression can even exist in men. According to PostPartumMen, not getting help can have a negative impact on your partner, but also can negatively affect your child's development so getting help early is important.