Dear Doctor: My husband has seemed really down since the birth of our son six months ago. We’re both being run ragged, and very proud of our son, but my husband seems less happy than I had hoped he would be. Could he be suffering from postpartum depression? If so, how? I’m the one with the hormonal onslaught!
Dear Reader: “Running ragged” is a good description of parents in the first year of a child’s life. Many have described it as going into a tunnel. Metaphorically, it can get mighty dark in there. Parents and their new child grope around to find some sense of normalcy, when every day brings a new change or a new obstacle. Adding to these challenges for women is the drop in the hormones estrogen, progesterone and oxytocin after pregnancy, which can trigger mood fluctuations and postpartum depression. Men don’t have that same hormonal drop, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience changes.
Studies in mammalian fathers, including humans, who take care of newborns have shown drops in their testosterone levels after birth and a rise in their levels of prolactin, a hormone typically linked to a female’s ability to produce milk. Evolutionarily, it makes sense that men who are helping to take care of children should have a drop in testosterone. Testosterone is needed for procreation, which should be the last thing on a dad’s mind when he’s taking care of a child. In fact, studies in multiple societies have found that the more hours a father invests in…
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