Fact or Fiction: Fathers Can Get Postpartum Depression

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… Previous research has found rates of depression in new dads that range from 1 percent to 25 percent, but a new meta-analysis … found that an average of 10.4 percent suffered from depression sometime between the first trimester of their partner's pregnancy and the child's first birthday.

Rates of paternal depression were highest three to six months after birth (25.6 percent) … All of these numbers are considerably higher than the annual rate for adult male depression, which is 4.8 percent …

… Extreme examples of parental depression can lead to suicide or to harm or neglect of the baby, but even mild to moderate depression in fathers has been shown to have lasting negative effects on their children for years to come.

… "there's a general cultural myth that men don't get depressed," … "Because of that cultural myth, men oftentimes think they shouldn't get depressed, and when they are depressed they try to hide it."

… for people who have clear cases of clinical depression, there are cues beyond typical parenting troubles, such as persistent detachment, feeling hopeless or worthless, or thoughts of death.

… doctors and pediatricians usually see new fathers less often than they do new mothers … Even though screening for depression in mothers is far from perfect, it is much easier to do given their more regular contact with the health care system …

... The sleep deprivation that comes along with being a new parent can alter neurochemical balances in the brain, making some people with underlying risk factors more vulnerable to depression …

… A personal history of depression puts both mothers and fathers at a higher risk, as does a sick baby, financial strain or relationship problems. Add to that list the changing expectations pushing dads to become more involved parents … and many new fathers are left feeling overwhelmed and at greater risk for anxiety and depressive symptoms.

… Like mothers who are depressed, fathers who suffer from depression can have negative impacts on their children's development years down the road.

"When Dad is depressed, Dad tends to interact less with the child and bonds less with the child," …

… "depression in fathers during the postnatal period was associated with adverse emotional and behavioral outcomes in children aged 3.5 years." …

… children whose fathers had been depressed during their early infancy were more likely to have behavioral problems by the time they were school age …

Depression in dads also seems to correlate with depression in mothers. Although the relationship is not one-to-one, having a partner with this sort of depression seems to increase an individual's likelihood of having it, too …

… Paulson recommends investigating treatment that focuses on whole families, addressing depression "as a family problem, not an individual problem."

Courtenay proposes ways to help prevent paternal—and maternal—depression from becoming a problem in the first place. With a growing checklist of risk factors … the best thing to do is address any of them "before the baby comes along."

… The first step … is improving awareness that paternal prenatal and postpartum depression exists and is likely to affect about one in 10 fathers …

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448