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June 6, 2010

New Dads Get Depressed Too

New and expeciting fathers experience depression twice as frequently as other men. Know the signs.

A new study, a Meta-Analysis, shows that fathers experience prenatal and postpartum depression, too. Maybe not as often as mothers – but new fathers report depression about twice as frequently as do men in the general population.

Researchers at the Eastern Virginia Medical School combed the literature on postpartum depression and settled on 43 studies consisting of over 28,000 participants. After analyzing the data, they found that over 10% of the study’s male participants reported “paternal depression,” – that is, depression in either the pre- or postnatal periods. But even more striking was the frequency with which fathers reported depression in the period three to six months after – in this period, 25% of new fathers said they were depressed. The researchers also found a moderate positive correlation between paternal and maternal postpartum depression, meaning that when new mothers experience depression it’s fairly likely that their partners will, too.

But even more striking was the frequency with which fathers reported depression in the period three to six months after – in this period, 25% of new fathers said they were depressed.

The authors say that because it’s so much higher than in the general population, “paternal prenatal and postpartum depression represents a significant public health concern.” They add that this is particularly true since previous literature indicates that paternal depression can affect the family’s children adversely: they write that “that more efforts should be made to improve screening and referral, particularly in light of the mounting evidence that early paternal depression may have substantial emotional, behavioral, and developmental effects on children.”

Parents – of both sexes – should be aware of the signs of depression, like loss of interest, hopelessness, fatigue, feeling sad, anxious, or “empty” (see the NIMH website for further information on depression). Because depression is treatable, people should try to identify the symptoms and talk to their health care provider about appropriate steps to take to treat it.

The study was published in the May 19, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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