Dads experience postpartum depression too: study
A new study suggests new fathers are not immune to the depression that can descend after a new baby is born, with as many as one in 10 dads experiencing the "baby blues."
The research, published in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that focuses on mental health, found that rates of postpartum depression in men were highest in the three to six month period after their babies were born.
Lead author James F. Paulson, from the Department of Pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, says while there has been plenty of research on the risks and effects of postpartum depression in women, the phenomenon in men is still not well researched.
Dr. Paulson and co-investigator Sharnail D. Bazemore conducted an analysis of previous research on postpartum depression in men, to try to understand the scope of the problem. They looked at studies that documented depression in fathers between the first trimester and the first postpartum year.
Among the 43 studies they examined, they found:
- The overall estimate of paternal depression was 10.4 per cent
- The three- to six-month postpartum period showing the highest rate (25.6 per cent), while the first three postpartum months showed the lowest rate (7.7 per cent).
- There was a "moderate" link between depression in fathers and mothers.
It's thought that mothers often sink into postpartum depression due to the sudden hormone fluctuations from pregnancy and birth. But new mothers and fathers share other factors that might lead to postpartum depression, including: sleep deprivation, stress, and isolation from friends.
The authors note that there's mounting evidence that early paternal depression can have substantial emotional and developmental effects on children. For example, a study in The Lancet medical journal in 2005 found that paternal depression had a "specific and persisting detrimental effect on their children's early behavioural and emotional development."
It found that while a mother's depression affected her boys and girls equally, boys were more profoundly affected by a father's depression. Boys whose fathers experienced untreated postpartum depression had twice as many problems in their pre-school years.
The authors of this study note it's interesting that depression in one parent is often linked to depression in the other. They say that suggests there should be more routine screening for depression among dads if the moms are also depressed.
"Likewise, prevention and intervention efforts for depression in parents might be focused on the couple and family rather than the individual," the authors write.
Cindy-Lee Dennis, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto who has extensively studied the prevention and treatment of postpartum depression, noted in an earlier interview with CTV News that early interventions for depression, such as anti-depressants, psychotherapy and marriage counselling, can help many patients
Dennis suggested there are some key depression symptoms to watch for, that go beyond the normal stresses that accompany a new addition to the family:
- Feeling that you are not a good enough parent
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances so that you can't sleep even when the baby sleeps
- Feeling nervous or anxious for no apparent reason
- Experiencing any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer