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Don’t Rag on Sad Dads

The good, the bad and the ugly things we learned about our bodies today

Having a new baby is supposed to be a wonderful — if mentally and physically taxing — experience. Chemically, childbirth triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces anxiety while boosting feelings of happiness and calm.

But in 15 percent of new moms, it can have the opposite effect: Postpartum depression. Anxiety, extreme sadness and changes in sleep and eating patterns (among other symptoms) are all characteristics of this mood disorder. And for a while now, it’s been surmised that some new dads can undergo similar negative changes.

A new study from the University of California has finally established a direct link between becoming a father and depression. In the study, 149 couples were asked to provide testosterone samples at 2, 9 and 15 months after the birth of their child.

What researchers found was that fathers who had lower testosterone levels, and mothers who had higher levels of the same hormone, were more likely to suffer from depression than couples who had normal testosterone levels.

The only question remaining for mental health experts is whether the type of baby blues that between 10 and 25 percent of men suffer from is, actually, the same postpartum depression women suffer from, or a unique disorder altogether.

Given our culture around men and acting tough, as well as the limited understanding we have surrounding postpartum depression, the bottom line is, don’t rag on new dads who tell you that they’re not sleeping, can’t eat or are suffering from mood swings. As the USC study demonstrates, what they’re going through is, actually, very real, and worth taking seriously.

A few other things we learned about our bodies today: