How is dad's mood affected by the birth of a baby?
While men surveyed have reported that the pregnancy of their partner is more stressful than the postpartum period, men experience depression following the birth of a baby at about 10%. Maternal depression is the strongest predictor of paternal depression. Also, if dad has depression, mom's symptoms are more likely to be worse. If dad is not depressed while his partner is pregnant, her depression showed greater improvement than those women with depressed partners. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale can also be used with fathers, though generally a lower score is used to indicate depression than is used with women.
In my work with postpartum women I often bring in their partners to talk about any insights, questions, or concerns they have about their partner's depression/anxiety and concrete ways they can help. I also like to check in with dad and see how he is adjusting to the new baby and ask if he is experiencing depressive and anxious symptoms. We know that couples in the postpartum period experience a steep drop in marital satisfaction. Seeing postpartum women and their partners together also provides a time to discuss this issue and talk about strategies to maintain a strong connection with your partner.
What do to if you and your partner are experiencing depression-
1.Make sure you take time to help each other understand what you are going through. Though it can be difficult, try to use it as an opportunity to foster emotional connection instead of withdrawing.
2. Consider individual therapy for both mom and dad as needed, and/or couples counseling.
3. If you both are experiencing depression, you have the unique opportunity to provide extra empathy and validation to each other!
Ideas for increasing marital satisfaction after baby-
1. Talk about the new roles each of you have taken on as mother and father (or how your roles have shifted or changed if it's not your first baby).
2. Talk about things other than the baby, household routines, etc.
3. Take time to have fun together and make each other laugh!