When you hear the words 'postpartum depression,' you probably automatically associate this condition with a new mother. This is a logical assumption in that women are generally the party most affected by postpartum depression.

What many people do not realize is that postpartum depression also affects other members of the family, including dad. Having a baby changes everything, including the family dynamics when the new addition comes home. It is important to understand the dangers of postpartum depression as well as how to spot this problem before it spirals out of control.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression, also referred to as postnatal depression, occurs after the birth of a child. It is a form of clinical depression which affects new mothers and, in increasing frequency, new fathers as well.

Symptoms of postpartum depression can present themselves within a few weeks of childbirth and last up to a year. While the exact cause of postpartum depression isn't clear, the common belief is that the dramatic change in hormone levels experienced after the birth of a child may play a role in causing depression.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

The symptoms of postpartum depression closely mirror symptoms of "regular" depression. They include but are not limited to: persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, frequent crying, change in appetite, change in sleep habits, feelings of worthlessness and a lack of interest in your baby. The symptoms of postpartum depression sometimes do not appear immediately after childbirth but at some point within the first year of your child's life.

How Postpartum Depression Affects the Entire Family

If postpartum depression is a result of changing hormones in the mother's body after childbirth, one might ask, "How is it possible for dads to be affected by this condition?" Do dads get postpartum depression? In the case of new fathers or even other members of the family, feelings of depression may be the result of mom feeling down. It may also be the result of changing work schedules, worry over finances, a shift of parental responsibilities in the period following the baby's birth. There are any number of changes that occur when a new baby is brought home that could trigger depression.

Unfortunately, there remains a social stigma in this country related to depression that prevents many people, especially men, from seeking help or treatment. This can be detrimental to the family if postpartum depression affects the parents' ability to care for the family. The birth of a new baby should be one of the most exciting and happy moments of your life. When those feelings are replaced with other, negative feelings, many parents feel guilty that they are not enjoying their baby as much as they should.

If anyone in the family experiences feelings of depression resulting from the birth of a baby, it is imperative to seek professional help. If, in addition to the symptoms associated with postpartum depression, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby occur, a rare but serious condition called postpartum psychosis may be to blame. This condition requires immediate help to ensure both mom and baby are safe.

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