Qn. Do fathers also suffer from postnatal depression? My cousin doesn’t seem to act normal ever since he welcomed his first-born child about a month ago.
A30-year- old accountant was admitted to a private psychiatric hospital last year, after he was diagnosed with Paternal Post Natal Depression. What everybody had expected to be the happiest event in his life, had led him to suddenly resign his job. He was sent to the clinic by his employer, a listed company with excellent programmes for staff welfare.
Having received his letter of resignation, the HR department went into full operational mode to seek to find out why one of their star performers would suddenly resign, without any indication that he had found another job (better or worse than the one he had).
The team member assigned to this uncharacteristic case of resignation went back to the basics and combed through our patient’s files for clues. He was a top performer in high school and university and had obtained all his professional qualifications in record time.
He had worked for the company for six years and his work performance was always rated as excellent. His colleagues were not aware of any financial or family problems and a close friend who also worked for the company came forward to tell HR that he had noticed changes in his best friend, about six weeks after the baby was born! That statement alone was to lead to a flurry of activities within the company.
HR sought confirmation that all that needed to be done by the company had been done after the baby was born. Flowers for the new mum with a card were sent. The company paid the hospital bills and arranged transport for mother and baby. Father given 21 days paternity leave with a specific allowance to help settle the baby. Departmental visit by at least four team members before the new dad came to work was also made as prescribed by the manual.
All ticks were there and yet the young man decided to resign. It was such a great mystery to the team.
A few weeks before his admission, a young mother from the same department had been treated in the same private clinic. A medical report indicated that she had been treated for Post Natal Depression. A light bulb moment occurred to a team member in HR. She sought to find out if men can also get depressed after the birth of a baby. As is clearly the case with your cousin, the answer was a most surprising and emphatic yes.
Paternal Post Natal Depression is as real as mum’s Post Natal Depression. It is less common but is just as real. It is often missed by doctors and many young fathers resign their jobs, drink too much and neglect their jobs because the diagnosis has not been made!
In the case of the young man in the private clinic, the full history of events was unfolding. Soon after the birth of the baby, he was excited to be a father. At first all went well and he felt that his dreams were coming true one by one; a good job, a beautiful wife and a new baby. He was so happy.
The baby was rather small and needed feeding every few hours. The baby did not sleep at night and only slept when he was at work. His wife was able to sneak in a few hours of sleep during the day but at night all three were awake all night.
Because of the stress of the new baby coupled with the fact that his wife needed help because of the complications from the caesarean section his mother in law had moved in to their two-bedroom flat. There were now the four of them in the flat, plus the live-in house help. He felt crowded out and was told in no uncertain terms that he had no role in baby care when there were three women who were capable of doing “everything” for the baby. As he put it later, he felt like an appendix available for removal. He sulked and said nothing.
Just to complicate things, some experts say Paternal Post Natal Depression is made worse by low testosterone and high estrogen. Whatever the case, the condition is real and you may wish to get your cousin checked for the condition!