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January 11, 2021 57 min

Today’s topic is important, but it is hugely stigmatized in our culture. You may not have even heard about paternal postpartum depression, but my guest today shares what he experienced with the births of his two children. 

 

Dr. David Levine is a pediatrician in New Jersey. He was blindsided by postpartum depression because, like most of us, he thought it only happens to women. He shares the struggle of having to talk to his wife about it and how he found help. Even more surprising is that he experienced postpartum while working as a pediatrician. He completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers College Medical School at NYU and his residency in pediatrics at Yale. Dr. Levine is not on the board of Postpartum Support International (PSI), where he works in professional outreach as a staunch advocate for fathers’ mental health. He’s written a book about his experience, which will hopefully be published soon to get the message out to fathers that they are not alone. 

 

Show Highlights:

 

  • Why so little is known about postpartum mental health, especially concerning fathers
  • David’s experience when his first child was born seven years ago
  • How David felt his aggravation and agitation increase as his infant son cried and could not be calmed
  • How David looked for support groups and resources for dads--and couldn’t find anything
  • How he kept getting worse and started envisioning committing violence against his child: “It was like watching a horror movie in my mind.”
  • How David finally told his wife about his depression and intrusive thoughts
  • How David tried medication briefly and then hit rock-bottom around week 7 of his son’s life
  • How David began his long road to recovery with therapy, a baby nurse, and more sleep
  • How he gained confidence as a father and began to bond with his son when he was 3-4 months old
  • How David began working with PSI and then had his second child three years ago
  • How his experiences were very similar, yet very different with his daughter
  • Why David feels that the traditional traps of masculinity kept him from seeking help earlier
  • How men experience anxiety and depression much differently than women do
  • Why postpartum depression in dads might manifest with anger, withdrawal from the family, and even physical violence
  • The pushback from people who don’t believe that postpartum depression exists for fathers
  • Why there should be more research, understanding, and resources for all aspects of male mental health
  • The hard statistics about male and female depression
  • How we can catch paternal postpartum depression better by teaching pediatricians to screen mothers AND fathers, and teaching obstetricians to inform mothers to check on dads
  • David’s manuscript for his book and his determination to get it published
  • Hopeful messages from David: “Paternal postpartum depression is fixable. We can prevent some of this from happening. With that, we can improve the lives of children and their parents and make stronger families.”
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