Postpartum Anxiety in Men and Women – Ways to Cope
It’s true, men suffer from postpartum anxiety just like women do – well – maybe not EXACTLY like women do. However, guys suffer along just the same in their own way. I know it can be hard to believe but I can testify because… I’m dealing with it right now.
This post is a shout out to all those new Daddies and Mommies out there who are trudging through the anxiety, frustration and exhaustion of having a new born. Postpartum is a real thing and there’s a flood of new feelings that can arrive in the months after your baby is born.
This article is going to break down some of the techniques I’ve been using to better cope with my own postpartum emotions. I’ve also included the strategies that have helped my wife get through these sleepless, days and nights.
Just a quick disclaimer here. I’m not even going to PRETEND that I’ve got this topic figured out completely. I’m experiencing it as I write these words and to be frank, no matter how many tactics I implement, the fear and frantic emotions return like the water to the shore.
That’s why this post should be a collaborative effort. If you’re reading this, then perhaps you’ve been through the ringer of postpartum anxiety. Generally speaking the period can last from 4 months up to a year.
I myself am a second time father and believe me – for those of you with two or more kids know,
It’s an exponentially BIGGER whirlwind!
What is Postpartum Anxiety
So just to set the record straight, I want to define the kind of postpartum anxiety we’re are talking about here. I myself, nor do my wife have chronic forms of anxiety or depression. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very high at times, but neither of us are on medication.
That said, the level of postpartum anxiety discussed here is referring to what you can expect on average during this period.
It’s different for everyone and the array of variables involved. Many of the factors that determine how severe your postpartum time is includes.
- the number of children you have
- your job type (working vs. maternity leave)
- current financial situation
- whether you’re single or married
- your age
- physical restrictions
- the health of your child (this is a BIG one)
- your support system (family)
- Do you have help during the day
- and your general level of anxiousness
There are about a billion and a half other things that can affect how challenging the postpartum period is for you. This list is just a start. I’d love to hear what your current environment is and how it plays a role in day to day life with a newborn. Comment below to chime in!
Common Feelings that Men Have
Although Postpartum affects women on a MUCH deeper level, I’d like to start with the feelings that men have. That’s because as a man, I can speak from the heart.
Along with my own interpretation of postpartum anxiety, I’ve included common emotions experienced by most men after a newborn has entered the home.
1. Feelings of Guilt, Inadequacy or Loneliness.
It’s quite normal to feel like you’re not able to contribute or participate in the early periods of infancy as compared to your wife. Mothers by nature are the comforters and caregivers of a newborn.
Men may feel a sense of inadequacy especially if you’re not involved during feedings.
I’ll give you a real life example. My wife does the feedings with our newborn son because that’s her time to bond with him. We have a two year old as well. So, the usual routine is, I’ll hang out with my lil’ buckaroo while my wife feeds the baby upstairs.
Sure, we switch up every once in a while but generally, she wants to be involved in the feedings. If you only have one child, it can make you feel like the third wheel on occasion.
How to Deal…
Being a supportive husband means being as understanding as possible during this time. The emotional bond between a new mommy and her baby is something that no man can truly understand. That’s not a bad thing. Men and Women are different so it’s natural that they have different types of emotional bonds with their children. Just understand that if your wife needs designated time with the new baby, it’s important that you try to empathize.
2. Exhaustion and Sexual Frustration
Whether you’re up round the clock with your newborn or simply caught up in the storm of constant new responsibilities, it’s a big adjustment.
Put plainly, having a baby – ROCKS YOUR WORLD!
They don’t tell you that when you leave the hospital. Sometimes it takes a few days to settle in but once you’ve got that bundle of joy home, there’s no denying that nothing you’ve ever expected could prepare you for this.
For some, myself included, the new routine can be maddening.
It feels like you’re constantly moving. Many men become GOFOR dads. “Go to the store for this…”
Although your newborn is initially like a potted plan that just kind of eats, poops and hopefully sleeps, the onslaught of emotions is constant and sometimes frantic.
There’s this instant sense that you always have to be “on”, even when you’re resting.
If sleep deprivation doesn’t bring on a short temper than surely sexual frustration will.
Just like men can’t completely understand a mother’s bond with her baby, women can’t quite understand a man’s sexual frustration during the initial postpartum period.
For the final months of a woman’s pregnancy, sex becomes challenging or different at the least. That change in the sexual relationship carries over after that baby is born as well for a time.
How to Deal…
Recognize that this is completely normal and everyone goes through it is the first step. It will help you put the situation in perspective. The important thing isn’t so much restraining your short temper and frustration but recognizing it.
Communicate with your partner and explain what you’re feeling. This is the best way to take a step back from your emotions and realize that this time WILL pass. Sex becomes normal again and you get your night time back once the kid(s) are in a regular bedtime.
Try to find moments in the day where you can unwind or at least take a short mental break from it all. The shower is a great place to start. Think positively during these bursts of meditation and breath deeply, letting out all your stress and anxiety.
Coffee is kind of a requirement for any new parent but it DOES increase irritability and nervousness. If you can’t go without it, I completely understand but if you can substitute with a lower caffeinated tea, that’s ideal.
I myself drink White Tea. It has low caffeine and makes me feel calmer and more serene.
Common Feelings that Women Have
Because this area is being dictated and by my wife as I type, I hope you’ll forgive anything that gets lost in translation. After all, if you’re a woman reading this, you certainly know firsthand that postpartum is hard to sum up in its entirety.
Women will often feel “off”, “not themselves” and sometimes just plain ole’ nutty 😉
Here’s the deal, your body took 9 months to acclimate it’s hormonal level for your pregnancy. That balloon of hormones is going to deflate sooner or later and when it does, you’ll know.
The height of postpartum in women can occur anywhere from two months to six months. Depending on where you are on the spectrum of severity, this can vary.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the symptoms will peak, sometime recur but ultimately settle and disappear. You WILL feel normal again. It just takes time.
1. Exhaustion, Sleep Deprivation and the Blues
I think the exhaustion and sleep deprivation part needs little explanation. The incredible new world of responsibilities you’ve entered is unyielding and seemingly endless.
The Blues, however, can be different from one mother to the next.
Postpartum depression can come in ebbs and flows, be continuous or surprise you out of the blue and create a stir of tears for seemingly no reason.
It sucks and a lot of time you’re so busy in the routine, you can’t take a break to deal with it
The blues and derive from strange rational created by those darn postpartum hormones. You may feel guilty if you have resentments towards the new baby (totally normal). You can feel like an empty vessel now that the baby is born.
I remember my wife telling me how weird it was that this baby wasn’t inside her anymore. She felt empty both figuratively and literally.
How to Deal…
Talk it out. Start with your spouse and escalate if necessary. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and once you get past this time, you’ll have the wherewithal to enjoy the moment without a gloomy cloud hanging over your head.
2. Feeling Out of Shape and Tired
Tired is different from exhaustion. Your body has just gone through the greatest stress it will ever go through and as you heal, you’re raising a newborn baby.
You may feel upset by your body’s change or even insecure. This is normal, totally not a superficial way to feel and you will get back into your sexy swimsuit and feel confident about your physique again.
How to Deal…
Give it time and be patient with yourself. Even if you find yourself too tired to exercise, try getting outside with the stroller when you feel up to it. The walk will energize you and make you feel positive about the healthy action.
It’s also a great way to get out of the house and feel like you’re back in life again.
3. Separation Anxiety
It can be hard for many new mothers to leave their newborns even in the care of the most trusted family member. My wife would have incredible panic flood over her at just the thought of an upcoming outing without our kids.
If you personally don’t suffer from this form of postpartum anxiety, consider yourself lucky. Many many new mothers have trouble resuming their daily routines if it involves leaving their baby’s side. The feeling of helplessness when away from your baby can seem paralyzing.
How to Deal…
Start slow. Begin to weaken this reaction to being away from your child by taking short trips with your spouse or loved one. Have family or a trusted friend babysit for only 20 minutes or so while you run an errand with a supportive person.
I would take my wife to the supermarket and we would purposefully plan these little trips to force the anxious feelings and learn how to overcome them when they hit. Now, the anxiety has lessened so much that we can go out on dates again and enjoy alone time outside of the confines of the house.
Try to attack this form of postpartum anxiety as early as possible. The more time that passes, the stronger its hold can become.
Now It’s Your Turn…
This page is intended to be a discussion. It will become an evolving work where, over time, I hope to have many many more symptoms and solutions to postpartum anxiety in men and women. So, now it’s your turn…
Chime in below with your comments on some of the emotions you’ve experienced during this postpartum period and how you’ve dealt with them. Your tips and recommendations can spare all the new mommies out there who are visiting this page, looking for help.
Warm Regards and Thanks for Reading! -Jason