Sad Dads: Men's Postpartum Suffering Misapprehended by Science
Do other people perceive your experience the way you perceive it? A new study indicates that, for new dads, many in the medical community have not.
Postpartum depression is a real disorder that affects 5% to 25% of women after giving birth. Celebrity dissidents aside, the medical establishment has long associated the episodes of sadness, fatigue, insomnia, appetite changes, reduced libido, crying episodes, anxiety, and irritability that can follow a birth with postpartum depression. However, almost all popular consideration of postpartum depression has focused on women, and relatively few scholarly studies have focused on men's experience of the post-natal experience.
Dr. James F. Paulson and Sharnail D. Bazemore of the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School assembled studies that talked about postpartum depression in men. Their meta-analysis of the literature included articles spanning from 1980 to 2009 - data which spanned 43 studies and over 28,000 participants. What Paulson and Bazemore discerned: as many as 25 percent of new dads had depression in the three to six months after childbirth.
Why haven't the experiences of fathers been more present in discussions of postpartum depression? Another factor is societal: many men simply don't talk about depression or its effects, and seldom consult health professionals who can diagnose the disorder. Phrased differently, these men are not having their experience accurately perceived by medical science.
Another effect that Paulson and Bazemore observed was that the incidence of postpartum depression was significantly higher in the United States than other developed countries abroad - 14 percent for the States, and 8 percent elsewhere. What factors contribute to men in the US suffering so much more acutely? Paulson theorizes that the U.S. has comparatively stricter family-leave policies in the workplace than in some European countries. Other hypotheses center around differing roles and expectations for mothers and fathers in different countries; perhaps American men's experience of fatherhood contributes more to a sense of ennui than men abroad.
What can you extrapolate from this study, other than to be nice to new dads? One thing is to appreciate that the academic literature is a dynamic, living thing - and that new information can be drawn from studies, even if conducted twenty or thirty years ago.
Another thing to consider is the disconnect between perceived experience and actual experience. This disconnect is exactly what YouJustGetMe seeks to tease out and explore - and your participation, by guessing other people, is what enables us to do that. So, don't be blue, and go see how well you just get some of our users!
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