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Stephanie speaks with Dr. Brandon Eddy. Dr. Eddy has a Ph.D in couple, marriage, and family therapy. They discuss his research on postpartum depression, miscarriage, infertility and loss from a father’s perspective. Dr. Eddy helps us understand what the transition to parenthood is like for fathers and the impact postpartum depression and loss can have on relationships.
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Dr. Brandon Eddy 0:04
We need to be a great partner not only during the good times, but during the rough times as well. And realize that it’s- it’s a really tough and scary experience to be a parent. And let’s experience that together rather than comparing our experiences or trying to one up each other.
Stephanie Greunke 0:23
Welcome back to the Whole Mamas podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources and evidence based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive or are navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. I’m Stephanie Greunke, registered dietitian and program director for Whole Mamas Club. I’m also the co-creator of Whole Mamas pregnancy program, where we teach you how to navigate the endless decisions regarding your pregnancy. And my co host is Dr. Elana Romell, pediatric naturopathic doctor and creator of “Med School for Moms”, an online resource where she teaches moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
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Now before we begin the episode with Dr. Brandon Eddy, I want to point out that at home as we recognize the are lots of different configurations when it comes to parenting and caretaking. While this particular episode does indeed focus on paternal father’s, this is only because the expert conducted his research in this area. This issue also affects stepfathers, boyfriends, girlfriends live-in partners, wives of wives, you get it. The point of this episode is really to hone in on and raise awareness around the huge change that comes with parenting and an effort to build on an already ongoing conversation that focuses solely on mothers. There’s also a section where the term heteronormal was used. I want to reassure you that what was meant was a tendency towards heteronormative. And the reason this was not edited out was because we didn’t want you to lose the context of the rest of the answer. But again, we are aware of the importance of language when it comes to keeping this conversation inclusive. So I thought this was important to call out. All right, now onto the conversation with Dr. Eddy. I am so excited and honored that you accepted my invitation to come on our podcast to share about loss and postpartum depression from a father’s perspective. So thank you for being here, Dr. Eddy.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 4:06
Oh, you’re welcome. You’re welcome.
Stephanie Greunke 4:07
You know, this topic is unfortunately under discussed and many people don’t even realize that dads can experience depression after a loss or after having a baby. And as an assistant professor, you have years of experience in this area teaching and doing research to help us understand what this looks like in dads and how we can support the dads in our life and strengthen our relationships after baby. But before we dive into all this really important information, I need to ask yourself our opening question, which is how did you nourish yourself today?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 4:39
Well, that’s a good question. And it makes me reflect on what I haven’t done today. So no, I, my day was consisting of rushing out the door and, and getting ready to teach a practicum course to marriage and family therapy students and so I haven’t had the opportunity to do that. However, one of my favorite things to do on campus is to take a walk in the afternoons to kind of break up the monotony of the day. And so I think after we’re done here, I’ll probably take a stroll around campus to take care of myself.
Stephanie Greunke 5:12
I love that- I love your honesty and also, part of the reason why we do the nourish yourself segment is selfishly because Elana and I need that reminder to do something for ourselves too. There are times where we get ready to record the interview or our recap. And we’re like, oh, what are we doing? What should we do? So that’s totally normal. And I’m glad you were able to talk about what you’re going to be doing today to take care of yourself. For me, I’m actually working out of a co-working space today. This is something new for me. I had been working at home for the last- gosh, like six to eight years I don’t even know at this point- and I just dropped my son off at a forest kindergarten so he’s going to be going to school and about 20 minutes away and instead of driving there and back and there and back and it was San Diego traffic that could be almost two hours in the car but I decided to skip the traffic and skip the stress and just buying a co-working space to work out of. So that is where I’m at right now. And I love it. I love being around people and actually having to do a little bit of something with myself during the day instead of wearing pajamas at work all day. -laughter from both- So, let’s get into the the episode because we had a lot of really great questions from our community. And there’s so much that I want to talk to you about and pick your brain about. But let’s first back up and talk about who you are, and what your background is and what made you decide to focus on the transition to parenthood, specifically postpartum depression and loss.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 6:39
That’s a great question. I think anytime we specialize in an area , do research in an area, there’s usually a personal tie to that. And it’s- it’s the same with me with postpartum depression. I was in my undergraduate and we were getting ready to have our first child and because I was a child and family studies major, I knew that it’s important that dads are involved. And so I would go to all the OB appointments with my wife and be really involved as I could throughout the process. And afterwards, three, four or five weeks after the baby was born, my wife just commented about just not feeling right. She felt off, she consistently felt down and depressed, didn’t feel like she was bonding with our baby. And so we talked about that and, and decided that she should go in and see someone. And that’s when we went in and she got diagnosed with postpartum depression. And we both reflected on that process about how, you know, I’d been so involved and we talked to doctors and nurses and nobody had ever brought that up. We were totally blindsided by postpartum depression, by what it was and the symptoms and all that and so, me being in school and and needing something to study, I decided to you know, I’m going to make this my thing. I’m going to become a guru in in postpartum depression and that transition to parenthood and ever since then it’s nine years later, I’m still studying.
Stephanie Greunke 8:06
You know, I think that that’s really powerful, being able to take that own personal experience and be able to share from a place of understanding the research, for sure, but also understanding it from that deep intimate level. And we’ve talked about postpartum depression a lot of times on the show from the perspective of a mom and I’ve shared my postpartum anxiety and and all that but we haven’t really heard about it from the perspective of a dad so, if you wouldn’t mind sharing what was that like for you seeing your wife go through postpartum depression and not knowing what to do or where to go to help to help her.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 8:40
I would say it was a very helpless feeling. You know, I I stepped in as much as I could and was taking charge and trying to help with feedings and take care of the baby and put him down and, and be really as active as I can and still while going to school and work and, but it was helpless. It was like she was struggling with something and, and I could listen but I felt like I just couldn’t fix it. And I couldn’t help her in a way that I wanted to and, and that’s why I suggested – “Well, let’s go see somebody. And let’s- you know- let’s see if this is supposed to happen, if this is right.” And we ended up being referred to a therapist and I ended up going to therapy sessions with her. And I found that was extremely beneficial because I could understand her more- her experience and how I could help her. And so going to couple’s counseling for that was a great thing to do.
Stephanie Greunke 9:31
Yeah. And I think it was the fact that you were interested in this area professionally, easier for you to get therapy because I know sometimes it’s hard enough for a mom to sometimes go to get therapy because we don’t think that we need it, or the expense, or the time, or the resources. But I know it’s really hard for for fathers, and for dads, and men in general to go seek therapy in that way. So how was that hard for you? Or was that an easy-?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 10:00
I think it was easy for me personally, just because I just wanted to do whatever I could. It was her therapist who actually called me and said, “Will you come in? And will you sit in and this and and listen to her experience and support her?” And I thought great, I mean, this is something I can actively do to help her through this experience and to be a support for her. And so I was more than willing to come in and, and just support her and hold her hand and sit next to her as she you know, as the therapist talked to her.
Stephanie Greunke 10:29
And I think it’s important to note too, it’s so important that you are also getting therapy as a partner because what we know is that when we’re looking at dads and the risk factors for postpartum depression, one of the major risk factors is having a partner with postpartum depression.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 10:47
Absolutely, it was -that therapist did a great job as well. I mean, I remember coming in and, and he asked me, because I thought it was all going to be focused on her. And I’m like, “Yeah, I could do that. Right.” But then he turns to me says, “How are you doing?” And that really took me back. I’m like, “I don’t even think about myself, What are you talking about?” And, but it made me reflect on the experience and be like, “no, this, this has been hard, you know, trying to pick up the slack and take care of her and the baby and myself, it was difficult.” So, for me going in, even though it was initially for her, it quickly turned in for coming for us, and to be a good support to both of us.
Stephanie Greunke 11:27
You know, I think that’s so interesting that you say that too. Because when I talked to couples about this, or if I’m talking to somebody, and they meet me, and they’re like, what do you do? And I talk about postpartum depression and in couples, and they’re like, “Well, what do you mean? Like, isn’t it just like a mom thing?” And I talked to them about it- “No, it actually can occur in dads.” And oftentimes what I get is just like this blank look from the dad, and they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, like, tell me more about this because I think I had that.” And it’s because it’s not talked about and I think until somebody opens up that conversation, or normalizes the fact that it can happen in dads we kind of just go through the motions and the adrenaline is running. And we’re just so focused on either helping the other person or getting through life that we don’t think about how we’re doing. So, you know, the fact that you were just kind of blindsided by that question shows a lot to the fact that, you know, we really need to be talking about this and making sure that both both sides of the story are heard. So let’s talk about how common this is. So what is the rate right now that we’re seeing for postpartum depression? And dads? And then also how does it look differently in men than it does in women? ‘Cause I know there are some very distinct characteristics.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 12:39
Yeah, the number right now, according to say, most researchers just right around 10%. I personally think that that’s low. I mean, it we know that it’s under-reported, and we know that it’s under-screened. So to me, of course, it’s going to be under-diagnosed. Many men don’t even know it’s a thing- many moms and dads don’t even know, it’s a thing. And so, for me, I would say it’s the reported numbers. 10%? I would say, I don’t know, personally, I think it’s probably closer to 15-20%. You know, we know things like that are always under-reported in terms of how it looks differently. I think that many of the same feelings are there, with the not connecting to baby, and the depression and, you know, being down and not finding joy and things; the difficulty sleeping. I think that they experience a lot of things, same things, but it presents itself differently. A lot of the research shows that men are isolaters. So men are going to tend to withdraw from these situations. You know, they might withdraw into work or in video games or in some other hobby. And so they’re going to tend to almost withdraw and create distance between themselves and their family. And that’s going to be a big indicator that something is wrong with that at that point.
Stephanie Greunke 13:58
Yeah, and if dad is pretty In a way that really impacts the entire family you know, if dad is coping with this depression or anxiety by not helping out that makes it harder on mom and- and the the dad and the baby aren’t connectin- and it just really does impact the entire family. And so that’s why this is really a family consideration, not just something that we need to think about for moms. I mean, thank goodness, we’re getting more information and more attention about moms, but I feel like dads get left in the shadow and so that’s why I’m so excited to have you here. And, you know, when when we’re looking at this postpartum period, what -when are we usually seeing this popup or present in dads, when are they actually starting like this, the accumulation of the feelings and the stress is adding up and they’re really exhibiting these signs and symptoms.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 14:49
You know, I think it usually takes around three, four weeks, somewhere around there for things to really pile up. A lot of couples have a lot of help initially after- it’s very common for in-laws or your parents to come and visit after- for the first couple weeks and really help out. And so even if you’re working, you know, you have a lighter load at home, and you have people there supporting and asking how you’re doing. And it’s really after that stage when the dust kind of settles, and it’s just you and your partner and baby. And that’s really when it starts to pile up, you don’t have so much help and support and, and people aren’t necessarily bringing over meals anymore or reaching out as much. And it starts to pile up. You’re like, Oh, I go to work, and I’m trying to support this way. And now I come home and it doesn’t end- I don’t get a break when I come home. I have to- you know, check on the other kids or take care of baby or and then you’re losing sleep and all that stuff just keeps adding up and piling on and pretty soon you’re completely overwhelmed. And your ability to function goes downhill from there. And so I would say it starts to get really common one to two months afterwards. That’s when a lot of I would say my clients reached out to me it’s about in that time period.
Stephanie Greunke 16:03
And you know, I think we were when we’re looking at this postpartum depression and dads- I think one of the common misconceptions is that well dads can’t have have it because they don’t go through all of the hormonal changes that mom does, you know, the significant drop in estrogen or progesterone. And so, how could this even be a thing? I mean, that’s what I often hear so so but I want- I want to talk to you about like, are there hormonal changes that happen to dads after baby comes? And if not what factors contribute to the depression, amongst as you talked about, you know, the sleep deprivation and all the responsibilities but like, what’s the context? What’s happening here?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 16:43
So there’s a lot going on, even even with moms, it’s not just hormones, a sort of social factors and, you know, biological factors. And there is a couple different studies out there that are newer studies that have shown that men do have a drop in testosterone associated with postpartum depression. So they’ve done studies on depressed fathers and found they have lower levels of testosterone, which was kind of mind blowing for, for that research to come out show that “No, men do have hormonal changes as well”. But it because it’s not just hormones and it’s a combination of, you know, social support, how am I getting along with my partner? What is the temperament of my baby? You know, or do I have family and friends reaching out? There’s so many factors that that play into postpartum depression that it’s it’s not just one thing, it’s it’s a combination of many things.
Stephanie Greunke 17:35
Yeah, and with that lower testosterone, lower testosterone has been correlated with poor mental health too. So you know, it’s a good thing that they’re experiencing low testosterone in one way because it helps with the bond and the attachment to baby and, and almost like them being more gentle and careful around baby, but also it does impact to their mental health. And I know in your research, you identified six themes for fathers experiencing postpartum depression. And I’d love to touch base on what that looks like in your research, like, what are those six themes?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 18:07
OK, so the the six themes, we categorize a bunch of different statements and stories from fathers and came up with six major categories or themes of what it’s like to experience this as, as a father. One of the main categories was the lack of education. Many people just don’t know it’s a thing. Many people are aware of maternal postpartum depression, but don’t have any idea that men can get it. And so that was a common factor. And in many of our fathers, for many of our fathers, it was also gender expectations, they felt that they had to adhere to these expectations of of what it’s like to be a man. So we hear you know, tough it up, stiff upper lip, you know, be a man and that was – to them- it was a message that even if I am feeling these things, it doesn’t matter, which leads right into our theme of suppressing feelings. So a lot of men are able to recognize that something is wrong, like things aren’t right here. However, I need to push this down. My job as a husband, as a father is to be supportive, not be supported by others. And so there’s this suppressing feelings. Another theme would be overwhelmed. So we talked about all those things piling up, work piles up. And for some people, school piles up and taking care of baby and other kids you might have- lack of sleep, really a lack of self care and time for yourself, and it really just becomes this overbearing burden to carry. Another one would be resentment of baby, so a lot of our fathers spoke about how they just saw their babies like this oozy bundle of need and just constantly one thing or after another and so they grew to resent their baby or even hate their baby and despise their baby in some cases, which was sad. A lot of fathers said, “You know what, what father wants to despise his baby or think about hurting his baby?” And then the last main theme was the experience of neglect. So a lot of these men talk about feeling neglected by their partner, by family and friends, you know, family and friends will come over and they’ll say, how is mom doing? How is baby doing, but they don’t ask how I’m doing. They talk about the healthcare field, neglecting them how they’ll go to visit. So where they’ll be in the delivery, nobody acknowledges them, and asked for their contributions or help or how they’re doing in general. And so really just this neglect from society in general, about what this experience is like to transition to parenthood for men.
Stephanie Greunke 20:49
You know, as you’re explaining these things, my heart is just like, Oh, I am thinking about all these things that the men in our lives are experiencing as a transition to fathers and all of the kind of negative stereotypes that we give to dads about, oh, they’re not helping and they can’t put the diaper on right and you know, just kind of putting them down in a way without without considering everything that’s going on in their world to it just really what you talked about there helps us put ourselves in their shoes a little bit and understand that this is such a significant change for the entire family. And we really need to be giving each other enough grace and getting the support that we need for this transition before baby comes and after baby comes. And as we go through major changes in child development, too, because it’s constantly changing, our role is constantly changing. So another thing I was thinking, as you’re going through those themes- is that these are really deep and really hard thoughts to sit with. And for men, oftentimes they don’t have an outlet to talk about or explore these these thoughts that they have in their head. There may be a afraid to talk to their friends about it, because they don’t want to be looked upon as like, oh, you’re weak, or they don’t go to therapy because of whatever reason. And just I guess we’re not having these conversations as much as I would like to see in the media and general public. And so that’s gonna be really hard, right? And that’s just another reason why therapy and a lot of the free resources at postpartum support international has like the dads groups and dads chats and and that is so helpful.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 22:31
Absolutely. Hey, more often than not when a dad comes into me for whether it’s loss after a miscarriage or whether it’s postpartum depression or any type of grief. I have to say more often than not, it’s his partner reaching out to me first and contacting me and say, Hey, you know, my husband, my partner, my boyfriend is really struggling. What should I do here? And more often not. I’m like, why don’t you come in with him? Why don’t you come in and share this experience together? I find that that is really effective for getting fathers in there and getting men in there is they need to feel like that their feelings are valid and that they do matter, and that what they are experiencing is real and it’s and it’s worth talking to someone about.
Stephanie Greunke 23:18
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Dr. Brandon Eddy 25:12
Yeah, I think that if we, I think if we basically say, hey, you need to get help, you need therapy. We, we sometimes, not intentionally, but unintentionally send the message that this is your problem. You know, you’re suffering with this and go get help for this and come back when you’re good. But the more I’ve seen that, partners initiate that and say, you know, let’s go together, you know, and and maybe I could use some help too, and kind of normalize that, like, this has been a tough experience for both of us. Why don’t we just go in and talk to someone and it doesn’t mean you have to go in and talk to someone for months and months, you know, I’ve had dads come in, and just two or three sessions, and they’re like, wow, like, I didn’t think this was going to be helpful. And all it took was two, three sessions that I feel so much better, just getting this out and talking to someone about it. And so I think one way to encourage them is to, you know, share your own experience. This is been tough on me too. Why don’t we both go in? I think family and friends reaching out- just something as simple as a phone conversation, going to lunch with someone, going to a movie with them, just showing them that like, you see them and you recognize them and you see what they’re going through. Some men are going to open up the very first time, they’re going to want to know that you really do care. If men are going to be vulnerable, and share these super intensive, vulnerable notions. We’re not going to just share them with anybody. We want it to be somebody that we know is going to care and isn’t necessarily going to think less of us or mock or ridicule us. from one of our- for our feelings. One story I’ll share with you is – I had a dad that reached out to me after one of the recent articles came out and he said this- “Thank you so much for your research. This is my exact experience. So I actually reached out and told my wife that I think I might have postpartum depression.” And he said that when he told his wife that she told her friends, and that her and her friends laughed at him about it.
Stephanie Greunke 27:07
Dr. Brandon Eddy 27:08
and my heart broke for him. I just like, how would that be to share something so personal with someone you love like that and to have them reject that. And so it’s easy to see why a lot of men don’t reach out and why a lot of men won’t let themselves be vulnerable in that way. For that fear of rejection-
Stephanie Greunke 27:26
I totally understand that and I can even see conversations happening in behind closed doors where maybe the dad will start to talk about the stress that he’s going through or how hard it is. And then it’s almost kind of shrugged off, like, Oh, well, do you know what I did? And it’s almost as competing like, Well, my life is harder than yours type of scenario. And that’s not helpful at all. I mean, you’re you’re it’s not about who’s gaining the most points in like the struggle bus area. It’s like how, okay, we’re both really struggling. It’s not about “He’s struggling more!” it’s about “Okay. This is a great time for us to get help.”
Dr. Brandon Eddy 28:04
Yeah, I often tell couples that it’s not a zero sum game.
Stephanie Greunke 28:07
Dr. Brandon Eddy 28:08
There isn’t like this piece of grieving pie. And if I have this piece of pie, it only leaves so much for everyone else. That’s, you know, that’s not what it’s like at all. It’s, it’s okay. Both partners are struggling and both partners are not coping with the experience. Well, it’s it’s something that they should cope with and deal with together. You know, when we agree, think of our marriage vows, right and for for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, we need to be a great partner, not only during the good times, but during the rough times as well. And realize that it’s it’s a really tough and scary experience to be a parent. And let’s experience that together rather than comparing our experiences or trying to one up each other.
Stephanie Greunke 28:51
Yes, so well said. Now, I’m just wondering for the the dads for the partners that, you know, maybe we let them know that “Hey, I think couples therapy would be great for us. And we can both work on this together”, but they’re still really resistant to getting help or they won’t even entertain a conversation about going to therapy, or they seem to get upset every time we talk about it or mention it. What do we do? What do we do there? Especially if we know that they really are struggling?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 29:19
What I’ve seen some wives do with this is to say, okay, you know, I know that you might be doing okay with this, but would you come in just to support me. And that’s a great way because even just hearing that what their wife is going through, because even if she doesn’t have postpartum depression at that time, it’s it’s still a tough experience. And there’s still a lot going on for her. And so I find that honestly, just getting people in the door to therapy is is something that’s great. I’ve had men that are very resistant at first, but I tell them, why don’t you come in and help me support your wife and then let’s talk about how what we can do to help her. And if we kind of turned into a situation of you know, what can you do to help them support- A lot of men can get on board with that. It’s when we’re saying, Hey, why don’t you come in for you? Because sometimes they see that as “Oh, something’s wrong with me. I’m defective. I’m not being a good provider or a good husband.” And so a lot of it is the ways that is how we frame it.
Stephanie Greunke 30:14
And so what happens then? So let’s say the man goes to therapy and realizes “Yeah, like I actually am struggling with depression or anxiety, or I’m still navigating what happened after our miscarriage or loss?” What does treatment look like? I mean, understanding that it’s different for everybody. But is it a lot of like cognitive behavioral therapy? Are dads put on medication for postpartum depression? What is what’s, what are common treatment routes?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 30:42
I mean, yeah, I would say the most common treatment is just coming in and talking about it. For a lot of people, it’s just being validated that the experience that they’ve gone through is is real, and it’s valid and it’s okay to feel that way. So, I mean, men are just conditioned from the time we’re little boys to, you know, rub some dirt on it and get over it- and we’re not conditioned to to talk about our feelings and so let him know that that’s okay to do that is that’s very healing in itself. Some dads will require medication as well for a short time and that’s okay. I mean, that’s very common for mothers as well. For me, I do a lot of solution focused therapy, which resonates well because it’s very goal oriented. You know, I’ll start out with a question such as, you know, what do you want to be different as a result of coming in today? You know, what do you want to improve in your life is a result of coming to get therapy and so they see that as “Okay, this is very goal oriented, it’s not I’m just going to share my feelings and, and and be all emotional”, that I mean, that happens anyway. But the way I’m framing it is very goals-oriented.
Stephanie Greunke 31:50
Yeah, I know that that definitely would resonate with a lot of the guys in my life- that I know they want to be able to fix something and have an ultimate goal and to take the actions steps needed versus it being kind of all over the place or fluffy or just conversational. So that makes a lot of sense. Now, one thing I don’t want to brush over because I, we were talking about this at the postpartum support international conference I originally met you at and it was surrounding trauma and in the birth room or throughout pregnancy and what I find just fascinating, and it makes sense, but it’s not often talked about so we don’t really internalize it or think about it is that sometimes this can happen. You know, the depression or the anxiety can happen to dads where the moms aren’t experiencing depression or anxiety at all. And it could stem from something that happened during the birth or labor and delivery, where the dad saw that experience as very disempowering or traumatizing. Maybe there was a lot of blood loss or he was fully conscious while the mom was medicated and things happen in that room. That just really stuck with him and he’s still trying to work through. So this you know, it can be a very visceral experience for dads and maybe mom is totally fine. But dad is the one that is still processing all this. So can you talk more about this? Do you work with this with the couples that you talked to? Or have you seen this in the research that it could be you know, Dad processing the trauma and Mom’s totally fine?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 33:25
Oh, absolutely. I actually have a personal experience with this.
Stephanie Greunke 33:28
Dr. Brandon Eddy 33:29
During the birth of our first child, pregnancy goes well all the way through and during the labor and delivery. When our son was born- when he came out, the cord was wrapped around his neck and my wife couldn’t see that from the position that she was at. So when he comes out, the first thing that I see is, you know, head pops out, and cord wrap. I mean it was-it was a really long cord. And so I see cord around his neck and internally, I just kind of like lose it inside because I’m like the cord is around his neck and so I remember reaching out to the doctor and I was like, Doctor, what’s going on and the OB, bless his heart. He was the smoothest guy, but he pulls the baby out and immediately just kind of whips that cord right off. And everything was fine. And he’s like, Oh, no, it’s fine. You know, they did the APGAR score and the APGAR score came back well, but I just think to myself, like, what if it wasn’t fine? I would have that. I mean, because for weeks after I could see that image in my head of baby out, cord around his neck, and that was something that my wife didn’t see. So I think that’s one example of traumatic things that can happen to fathers, even when everything goes right. And I think what if things weren’t right? What if things weren’t okay with my baby? And, you know, the absolute worst thinkable, impossible thing happened and what if my baby had not made that? And what images what I would have been left with for, you know, months and months after that. So I think there’s experiences like that. I mean, if mom gets rushed to an emergency C-Section, baby comes out and and something’s wrong. There’s a lot of experiences that fathers can have during the birth that are very traumatic.
Stephanie Greunke 35:09
Thank you so much for sharing that. I think hearing these personal stories and having examples, people will be able to maybe see themselves in that story and have these conversations and kind of ask- like, well, what was the experience like for you? Because so many times you know, where we talked to moms about what was your birth experience like and what was your birth story? And this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be talking to moms either, but just talking to both the couples -like Well, yeah, like Dad, how was that labor and delivery for you? Because it can be very scary with seeing somebody that you love so much, and your baby in a position where you feel helpless and out of control is a very hard place to be and yeah, like you said, your wife didn’t really know what was going on. But you saw very clearly that there could have been a problem and that that was hard for you to process and you still had to process that after the birth for some time. So how can we help dads who may kind of relate to that experience who are working through that trauma or who feel very disempowered in the birth room or pregnancy or postpartum or whatever, recover from that experience?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 36:14
I think it starts earlier- I think it starts with including dad in every phase of the pregnancy. So you know, I’ve had a few different experience with OBs where I attend most all visits with all three of our children and and some of the OBS have been great- I walk in, “Hey, Dad, how you doing? How’s life for you? How are you adjusting and and that’s been great.” And it’s been like that all the way through. And I had another OB who didn’t know my name, didn’t acknowledge me and I came in every single, you know, appointment. So I think we need to involve dads right away. Let’s have nurses and doctors involved. Dads, let’s have the postpartum care at hospitals involve dads and pediatrician. And help Dads feel like they are a part of this process. They’re not just someone who, you know, is there when mom gets pregnant and you know, is there sporadically throughout baby’s life, but that they are there every step of the way and that they’re needed and that they’re wanted. And I think that sends a message to dads where if something does happen, then it’s okay to speak up because I’m a welcomed part of this process and not a bystander.
Stephanie Greunke 37:25
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, also understanding, looking at it from a place of inclusion to I know, there’s, there’s a lot of concerns from couples that are, you know, lesbian, gay, queer couples, there were, they may not have identified as the partner or there are some barriers there to and really making sure that as healthcare practitioners that are out there, we are understanding and being inclusive of all the different types of families and parents that are out there and also, you know, even looking at your provider and and letting them know your situation if you don’t identify as a hetero normative couple, like, is this going to be a problem? And and can you make sure that everybody feels included in this process? Because it is so important that we feel like we belong in that setting so we can get the best care possible. And do you have anything to say about that to like the experience of feeling welcomed?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 38:21
Oh, we are- I would say that the research is woefully underdeveloped in terms of the transition to parenthood for LGBTQ+ plus individuals. That’s one area where I’m going to definitely up- do an uptick in my research because their experience is different from mine, and they, you know, have different needs and, and different experiences and those are valid and those need to be researched about how we can be inclusive. I think you’re exactly right. We, when it comes to pregnancy, and we tend to really make it all about mom and baby and and to a certain extent that’s it’s appropriate. Right? We need to make sure that the baby is healthy and mom is healthy. But these babies and these moms are are in family systems, right? They have partners, they have husbands, wives, and people who are important to them, and that are very important for their, their health and their development. And so we need to stop looking at pregnancy as- as a two person thing, but as three, four or five people as as a family thing, and be inclusive of whoever there is ever a part of that process.
Stephanie Greunke 39:29
Yeah, absolutely. And I think you know, also I love the idea of having your partners attend the visits. I think it’s also it is -it is a matter of having the privilege to do so you know, having the partner be able to take off of work and you know, I’m a military spouse, so having your partner in the country even, you know, whatever it is. So, there are some things that like I was able to do, we were able to do some Skype visits, if he couldn’t attend or we’re able to have him kind of call the nurse or the provider and get an idea of what’s going on and just being as available and present as possible, even if it can’t be every single appointment that they visit, just kind of making sure that your presence is known and that you want to hear what’s going on so that you can help make the best decisions and be involved.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 40:16
Oh, absolutely. Our with- our first to OB had later appointments and so I remember going to a 6pm appointment after I worked. So I would love to see some some flexibility because you’re right, a lot of partners are fathers, husbands, they want to be to the appointment, but they just can’t they don’t have that benefit of having time off work or paid time off or just the availability. And so I would love to see later appointments times, earlier appointment times, or just even a pamphlet that “Hey, take this home and give this to your partner. We want your partner to know that we’re thinking about him or her and that what this experience is like for them and that we’d love to have them here too.”
Stephanie Greunke 40:59
Yeah. Absolutely, and you know, being available at appointments too or having those pamphlets and handouts will be helpful to screen men too because, EPDS, which we use to screen women for postpartum depression or perinatal mental health can also be used for men. And that can happen during while visits with the baby. It can happen during the prenatal appointments, it can happen during the postpartum checkup. And so, you know, being able to do some screening of both partners, you know, hey, this is a random questionnaire that we give to everybody we want both of you to take it can help us screen and identify both parties that may be experiencing mood disorders.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 41:39
Oh, absolutely. I had one father in my study about men’s experience of postpartum depression. He said that he was sitting next to his wife and as she was going over the Ben Burtt depression screening, and he’s like, I couldn’t help but think that someone should be asking me the same question. And so yeah, it’s it’s a golden opportunity to screen both partners for depression during the pregnancy, screen them afterwards if, if both partners come to the screening for, you know, the pediatric followup for the baby. That’s another opportunity that we have to screen parents. So I think there’s there’s a lot of opportunities that it could be, “hey, you know, Mom, you filled out the screen today, you notice some of these things in you in your partner? What do you how do you think your partner would feel some of these things out?” So even if the partner’s not there, we can ask and see what how mom thinks partners doing too.
Stephanie Greunke 42:29
Yeah, and I and I say this because I know we have some health practitioners that are listening to the podcast and we also have some really wonderful proactive moms that can you know, take that questionnaire home from their provider or you know, ask if the partner can have and kind of push for that there and fair treatment and the the screening that is reserved for both sides. So that’s kind of why I mentioned- it’s definitely not standard practice, but it should be and we can work to kind of get that that proper care. So one thing I want to ask you too- and know to hearing all this information about partners struggling and making sure that we are reaching out to the men in our life, the husbands in our life, what happens if we-we notice something? So let’s say I am over at my friend’s house and she’s doing okay, maybe, but the partner isn’t doing well. And I’m here I’m seeing some of the things that we’re talking on the podcast, that he is drinking more and pulling away, and he seems like he’s not himself. Is there a point where, like, what would what would I do in that situation? Because maybe the wife doesn’t notice it. The mom doesn’t notice it, but other people do. Should we say something to them? Should we say something to the mom? Like how do we help these couples that may not realize that they’re struggling?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 43:50
I think it’s absolutely appropriate to say something if you know if you and your friend are talking and you’re talking about how your experiences. I think it’s appropriate to say hey, you know- How’s your husband? How’s your partner dealing with this experience? This is, I know, it’s you know, and you might share experiences, you know, with with your own husband. And you might say, Hey, you know, whatever your husband’s name is Chad or Phil, you know, Phil, this is really hard for fit for him to during this time, you know, I see some of these things in in in your husband as well. So I think normalizing It is one of the best things we can do to let people know that they’re not the weird ones that are struggling with this that hey, I struggled with this too. And then this was tough too and just reaching out. I mean, something as simple as if you if you see that another husband or another partner struggling with it, just ask them how their day is going. Ask him how you know how they’re bonding with their baby, or how the experience has been. And you might ask, Hey, man, what’s the toughest thing about it? This was really tough for me and share an instance that that was tough for you. So I think normalizing this experience and sharing your own experience can help people feel more open to share their own.
Stephanie Greunke 44:55
And you know, what else can be really helpful to is if you feel like, you know, maybe you In your relationship as a couple, your husband or your partner is open and willing to talk about the experience and how hard it is. Maybe even if it’s comfortable for both parties being like, Well, yeah, like if your husband ever wants to talk to my husband about like the transition and the struggle and kind of connecting them in that way, because from what I understand talking to Dr. Daniel Singley, he says that a lot of times dads do really well in groups, and when they’re talking to peers about the struggles and the hardships and just having that other person to vent to and just be like, yeah, I experienced that too. And like, this is what helps like having that friendly conversation with somebody that is like minded and like going through the same things can be extremely helpful. So that’s something that I try to do too. If I noticed that one of my friends partners is struggling, I’m like, hey, yeah, if you have any questions like, call my husband, he loves to talk about this kind of stuff.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 45:50
Yeah. Lucky for me, and my wife is very open about her experience with it. So I’m able to, to tell that to my friends. Hey, if you ever need to talk about this experience. You know, me and my wife have both gone through this and we’re willing to talk to either one of you.
Stephanie Greunke 46:04
Very cool. Well, I would love to sit and talk to you for the rest of the day just kind of understanding you know, your perspective. I think it’s just really great that we understand how to help and support each other and make sure that we strengthen our bonds as a couple. So,
you know, the last
thing that I want to pick your brain about before we go though, is, you know, you’ve also done research on the impact of pregnancy and relationships, and things like loss or mental health concerns are really challenging for couples to work through. So what have you found any research to be helpful for staying strong as a couple after sentencing loss or postpartum depression and anxiety?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 46:43
Hmm, I think it goes back to for me the zero sum game. I would say that couples often have trouble feeling like like their experiences are okay. They either are so worried about taking care of their partner, that they don’t share their own experience. And by doing that, sometimes there’s resentment. Sometimes, I’ve seen fathers feel like, Well, I know that my wife is struggling. And so I’ve got to, I’ve got to support her. And I’ve got to protect her during this time. And so they they hold in their own stuff. And as a result, they get resentful that they’re not able to share their experience. And so I think as a couple, take time to check in with each other, if you’ve experienced loss, or depression or grief or any, any difficult thing associated with with this pregnancy and then transition to parenthood, I would say, Take time to check in with one another – say, Hey, you know, this is what my experience is like- what is your experience like been like this? Because oftentimes, we’re experiencing the same things, but we’re experiencing them in different ways. And so I think taking the time to, to just sit down and have conversations about how things are going together as a couple as is as beneficial as anything.
Stephanie Greunke 47:53
No, that’s great advice. And I think, you know, that also ties into one of the questions that we had of, you know, how do I know my husband is grieving or not, or how do I know that he is? I don’t think that he’s grieving, but he should be type of thing. And it’s like, well, yeah, I mean, he really might be and it’s worth having that conversation so that you can understand because his grieving might look different than your grieving, you know, his grieving might not be crying and might be having that extra drink or coming home late from work or pulling away and distancing himself from the family versus, you know, sobbing into a pillow like yours. So it’s just really great to open up that conversation and ask the question, how are you doing? and allowing whatever is said to be okay and acceptable. And then yeah, like you said, being able to go into therapy as a couple.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 48:43
Yeah, men are, I would say men are masters of isolation. So we can-we’re going to preoccupy our things with self, a man who is experiencing great loss or grief. He might all of a sudden become an awesome employee and he just in just throws himself 100% into his work. And so his boss or someone might think he’s being super productive, when really that’s how he’s coping with his loss is by just diving headfirst into work. Like you said, it might also be alcohol, it might be drugs, it could be video games. I’ve heard a lot of our spouses say, you know, I used to play games a little bit. But now that’s that’s all he does. He comes home and he’s, you know, he’s on the Xbox, or he’s on the PlayStation until he goes to bed, some people and engage in extramarital affairs, or other things like that. And so they’re going to deal with that grief and they’re in and it’s, they’re going to find a way to. And oftentimes, it’s not a healthy way.
Stephanie Greunke 49:39
Yeah, absolutely. And then from your perspective, it kind of looks like they’re being a jerk, right, like, well, what’s going on? Like, they’re playing video games, and they’re not wanting to be at home and it really isn’t them trying to be mean, it’s just how they’re coping with the loss. And so I think that communication is so important and can help you know, resolve a lot of conflict or potential conflict that can happen in relationships. So, thank you so much for sharing all of this wisdom. I can’t wait to get it out for our community to listen. And I’d love to give them some next steps if they want to connect with you or learn more about your research. So where can they find you?
Dr. Brandon Eddy 50:13
Ah, the first, I guess best place for you to find me would be on my Facebook page. It’s Dr. Brandon Eddy, on Facebook. I’m also on Psychology Today, as well as Dr. Brandon Eddy there as well. And then I’m a professor in the couple and Family Therapy Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. And we have a website for our program online there as well. And so I can be found it in any of those three areas.
Stephanie Greunke 50:41
Perfect. Thank you so much. I’ll put all the links to that in our show notes so people can find you. So again, appreciate your time. This was wonderful chatting with you and I look forward to connecting with you again soon.
Dr. Brandon Eddy 50:51
Absolutely. It was great. Thank you so much for having me and for and for really bringing light to a topic that isn’t covered enough. You know, it’s it’s men are really underserved in terms of postpartum depression and grief and loss and this whole transition and parenthood and so what you are doing is amazing, and you’re a great ally for fathers and for men in general. And I appreciate it.
Stephanie Greunke 51:14
Thank you so much. That means a lot. I appreciate you. We hope you enjoy today’s episode on postpartum loss and depression from a father’s perspective. Thank you so much for listening and thank you to our partner RASA. Remember, you can use code WHOLEMAMAS at checkout over at we are rasa.com to get 20% off your first order. If you enjoyed this episode, please help us out by sharing our podcast with your mama friends. You can take a screenshot of wherever you’re listening to this episode and post on social media or leave us a review on iTunes. And always remember that the views and ideas presented on this podcast are for informational purposes only. All information, content and material presented is for informational purposes and is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation diagnosis and or medical treatment of a qualified physician or health care provider. Consult with your provider before starting any diet supplement regimen or determine the appropriateness of the information shared on this podcast. Or if you have any questions regarding pregnancy or your prenatal treatment plan. Now go on- have a great day and nourish and nurture yourself and your family.
- Causes of depression and anxiety in fathers
- What grief, loss, and depression looks like in dads
- Navigating hidden sources of trauma
- Gender roles regarding men’s mental health
- How to help men experiencing grief and loss
- What to do if your partner refuses to get help
- Dr. Brandon Eddy’s publications
- Dr. Brandon Eddy on Psychology Today
- Dr. Brandon Eddy on Facebook
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This episode's guest
Dr. Brandon Eddy is an assistant professor in the Couple and Family Program in the School of Medicine at UNLV. He received his Ph.D in Couple, Marriage, and Family Therapy from Texas Tech University. Dr. Eddy’s research agenda focuses on postpartum depression, miscarriage, infertility, and fatherhood. Dr. Eddy has published multiple journal articles and has presented at international, national, and local conferences.