Can Testosterone Levels Affect Postnatal Depression?
Much of the thought an discussion around postnatal or postpartum depression focus on the woman.
However, there are estimates of up to 10% of men also suffering from depression after the birth of a child.
This is a startling figure when that is double the average depression rate among men.
While postnatal depression is linked to women and their shift in hormones, this has never really been examined with men.
One such theory is linked to testosterone levels, how these may have an influence and whether depression can be predicted.
One thing that is known, is that testosterone levels change as people age.
Testosterone is your bodies own naturally produced steroid hormone that is responsible for male characteristics such as muscle mass, body hair, libido and even behavior.
As men age, over time testosterone levels deplete, what may not be initially recognizable but symptoms of andropause can bring on feelings of depression, lethargy and a lack of focus, not to mention the reduction of muscle mass and the increase of body fat.
It has also been noted that right across the board in the animal kingdom testosterone levels in new fathers have been observed to decrease. This is also true in humans.
In a study observing 600 men, those who were new fathers showed a reduction in testosterone levels compared to men who stayed single and hasn’t fathered any children.
Additionally, those who did father children and spent lots of time around their offspring also showed a suppression in testosterone.
Those men whose testosterone dropped furthermore were more likely to suffer from not only postnatal depression but would not invest as much time in their romantic relationships with their respective partners.
While exact causes for this dip in testosterone has yet to be concluded, it is suggested that stress, lack of exercise due to time constraints as well as irregular, long restful sleep could well be contributing factors.
As we know, stress raises cortisol levels which inhibits testosterone production. We need long and uninterrupted sleep to excrete growth hormone (testosterone) and exercise such as weight lifting also stimulates more testosterone production.
Does Andropause Equal Depression?
It is understood that lower levels of testosterone in men are linked to depression, lethargy and a lack of interest in normal activities. It can also make men un-attracted to their partners.
However, this link of low testosterone and depression has never been observed in new fathers and postnatal depression if they are showing the markers of it.
In order to see if there is a link between low testosterone, depression and postnatal mood a study was commissioned to observe new mothers and fathers over a seven year period.
Men gave saliva samples for analysis and the results showed that the men with lower testosterone levels reported feeling more depressed than those men with higher testosterone levels.
This then correlates with other studies linking testosterone and depression.
Does Testosterone Affect Parenting & Relationships?
It seems that it does.
Those men who had higher levels of testosterone, while not reporting feelings of depression did seem to lead towards aggressive behavior.
Those men with higher testosterone levels also reported a less harmonious relationship with their children and feel trapped or as if the child demanded too much from them.
Therefore, while a man with higher testosterone levels reported fewer occasions of depression, they struggle more with parenting and developing their relationship with their partner.
Whereas, those men with lower levels of testosterone who did report more feelings of depression appeared to create a better parenting and partner relationship.
In fact, those women who had partners with lower testosterone levels reported less symptoms of depression than those women with men who had higher testosterone levels.
It is thought that men with lower testosterone levels offer more support, more dedication to their relationship and take some of the pressure of parenting away from the mother.
This could be that if the new father has lower testosterone levels they maybe more inclined to invest more time and effort in to the family set-up and show less aggressive behavior toward mother and child.
Therefore, overall their family relationship is of a better quality even if the father maybe more vulnerable to depressive feelings.