It may sound like a stretch to cite hormones as the reason men suffer from postpartum depression, but a new study in the journal Hormones and Behavior does just that. Researchers found that new dads may experience postpartum depression after the birth of their child due to hormonal shifts in testosterone levels. Their results found that men who saw a drop in testosterone levels after their kid’s birth were far more likely to be depressed. Previous studies have confirmed that testosterone in men ⏤ and even in animals ⏤ plummets upon the birth of a child to prepare the male for fatherhood.
“Our findings suggest a potential biological and hormonal correlate of depression during the postpartum period,” Darby Saxbe, the author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, explained in an interview.
There is still a massive social stigma around postpartum depression for all parents, but especially dads. According to the Chicago Tribune, many studies in recent years have suggested that nearly 10 percent of new fathers may experience some form of PPD after the birth of a child, but it’s extremely rare for dads to be screened for it. And that means they’re far less likely to be diagnosed or treated.
“Postpartum depression in men is not so easy to spot,” Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist who works with new dads suffering from PPD, told the Chicago Tribune.
If untreated, PPD can affect more than just the father. Research suggests that kids who grow up with fathers who battle untreated depression often have a difficult time processing negative emotions and are more likely to act out using aggressive behavior.
“We know depression can impact the father-child relationship, as well as children’s future behavior,” explained Sheehan Fisher, a clinical psychologist at Northwestern University.