It’s hard to overstate the difference a child makes in your relationship. No detail of your lives remains untouched. There are the obvious things—you can’t sleep when you want, you can’t leave the house without a truckload of stuff, you can’t even watch a ball game without interruptions during the best parts (why is it babies never cry during commercials?). There’s also the laundry that piles up, the dishwasher crowded with bottles or breast pump parts, and the danger of lacerating your face trying to shave while holding a baby.
Then there’s the really big stuff:
- You have to spend more money, but you also have more demands on your time.
- Your partner may feel differently about her body now.
- You may feel guilty about having made her pregnant, or you may feel jealous of the affection she shows the baby.
- Most importantly, there is now a whole new human being who is incredibly important to both of you, who literally redefines the meaning of the word love.
Should it surprise you, then, that this time can be a little stressful?
Doctors are now paying more attention to postpartum depression in mothers and fathers. While it’s normal for mothers to become emotional in the week or two following birth, these symptoms should clear up pretty quickly, usually by the end of the first month. Some women, however, don’t recover. They may actually feel worse over time. About 12% to 20% of women develop depression or anxiety following a delivery, and up to 10% of fathers suffer depression as well.
Parental depression affects children profoundly, causing developmental delays, social problems, and behavioral issues. Depressed fathers are much more likely to spank their children than fathers without depression, and they are less likely to play games, sing songs, or read to their children. On the other hand, for children whose mother is depressed, having an involved and nurturing father protects them from some of the negative effects of mom’s depression.
The most widely used tool to screen mothers for postpartum depression is called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Recently doctors have begun using the same questionnaire to evaluate dads.