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Sad Dads


Think women are the only ones who suffer from the baby blues? Think again.
Postpartum depression can also plague men, says a Vancouver psychiatrist who studies men and their depressive episodes. Dr. John Oliffe, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) researcher, says that up to 15% of new fathers can experience the baby blues.
"With women, we tend to link postpartum depression to changes in hormones -- those surges they get.
"But with guys, it's all about how things change as to their social circumstances and their roles," says Oliffe who works out of the University of British Columbia.
Sleep deprivation, a problem for both parents, can be hard to take. But even harder for many men is how the relationship with their partner changes when baby makes three: "It takes the focus away from the couple."
The newness of it all can throw guys, who previously felt they had it all under control, for a bit of a loop.
"We see older dads who are established in their careers who just expect that parenting will come easily. They learn they have new challenges like bathing the baby, dressing the baby, even tending to groceries."
For some men, their new demands can be a shock.
"The days of the absent provider are not OK, today: The guy is expected to be involved at some level," says Oliffe. "It can be difficult to find some balance around what that is. Some guys don't want to change the baby -- men have to negotiate around their new roles."
A rocky relationship with one's partner, the loss of a job, or a colicky baby can trigger male postpartum depression. Some experts are calling it "sad dad syndrome", paternal postnatal depression or PPND, or "postnatal mood disorder" -- the latter because it includes depression and anxiety.
Sad dads show their depression differently from moms, says Dr. Oliffe. They may be agitated, aggressive or withdrawn: "And that's why we miss postpartum depression in many men -- it's because we are not thinking of those characteristics as representative of depression. Women cry: They tell you what they feel. Men often can't make sense of what they are feeling."
Research also shows that sad dads are more likely to turn to alcohol or drugs, or engage in risky behaviour, or overwork.
"We expect men to suck it up -- and we expect them to disclose less of themselves."

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