December 12, 2011 in Features

Mr. Dad: New father can help fight wife’s depression

Armin Brott
 

Dear Mr. Dad: I have postpartum depression pretty bad, and I feel like my husband thinks I’m faking it. How can I help him understand that I seriously need his help?

A: Most women who have postpartum depression don’t get the help they need, often because they’re embarrassed to ask for it. Fortunately for you, your husband and your baby, you’re not most women.

Almost all new moms go through the “baby blues” – mild sadness, mood swings, anxiety, weepiness, loss of sleep and/or appetite, and inability to make decisions. Most of the time, the symptoms go away on their own within a few weeks or a month.

Ten to 20 percent of moms develop actual “postpartum depression.” The symptoms are similar, but more serious: major appetite changes, an inability to take pleasure in the baby or life in general, unexplained episodes of crying, extreme feelings of anxiety or fear, decreased sex drive, difficulty sleeping and feelings of guilt or shame.

At the very least, your husband should be helping you eat right and exercise. He also needs to be taking on more of the baby-related work and making sure you get enough sleep.

Research shows that babies of depressed mothers reach certain developmental milestones later than other babies. And they’re more likely to become depressed themselves. The more he helps you, the more he’s helping your baby – and the more he’s helping himself by getting some much-needed practice.

Dear Mr. Dad: When my father was around, the only things he taught me were what not to be like. How do I be a good dad? How do I teach my children something I don’t know? I want to be a great dad, but I have a terrible feeling of doom. Please help.

A: A lot of dads who had rocky or nonexistent relationships with their father worry, as you do, that they’re destined to follow the same path.

Just having had a good role model gives kids a feeling of confidence that they can take the best parts and leave out the rest. You can do the same.

Yes, your past relationships will influence your present ones, but you have a choice in the matter. Most guys whose dads were less than they should have been are able to absorb whatever good stuff (if any) they got from the old man and dump the bad.

There’s plenty of research to back me up. Men whose fathers were distant or un-nurturing often end up providing particularly high levels of care for their children’s social, emotional, academic and intellectual development.

And men whose dads supervised them inconsistently or inadequately, as well as men whose dads threatened, spanked (a lot), or frightened them as boys often turn things around and spend a lot of time working on their children’s physical and athletic development.

Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com


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