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Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Dads


While the phenomenon of depression during and following pregnancy in women is widely appreciated (and often associated with weight gain and/or antenatal weight retention), the effect of pregnancy on mood of fathers is less appreciated.

A recent study by James Paulson and Sharnail Bazemore from the Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA, just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, throws new light on this interesting issue.

The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 43 studies that documented depression in fathers between the first trimester and the first postpartum year involving 28 004 participant.

Although there was substantial heterogeneity between the rates of paternal depression between studies, the average rate of paternal depression in the antenatal period (during pregnancy) was abour 10% but increased to about 25% during the 3 to 6-month postpartum period (after birth).

While paternal depression was more likely in the presence of maternal depression, this was by no means a strong predictor of paternal mood disorder.

These findings have important implications.

Not only is it important to also be wary of mood disorders in expecting and new fathers (especially if the mother has mood problems), but these mood disorders in fathers may need to be addressed.

This is of particular importance given the emerging evidence that paternal depression may have substantial emotional, behavioural and developmental effects on the infant.

Furthermore, it may well be that paternal peripartum depression could contribute to weight gain in dads.

Thus, prevention, screening and interventions for depression should likely be focussed on the couple rather than on the individual parent.

AMS
Oslo, Norway

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Paulson JF, & Bazemore SD (2010). Prenatal and postpartum depression in fathers and its association with maternal depression: a meta-analysis. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 303 (19), 1961-9 PMID: 20483973

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4 Comments

  1. Oh! I thought postpartum depression mainly hits women!

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  2. Nope, but we are only just starting to talk about it in Dads.

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  3. I don’t disagree that postpartum depression in fathers exists and should be taken seriously. Support for the whole family unit is needed when either parent suffers from a mental illness in the post-natal period, or at any other time.

    But I’m not sure about your assertion that PPD “often” has to do with weight issues – implying that that is a particularly important cause. Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness influenced by many factors. It is not the same as ‘baby blues’, and is much more serious than ‘feeling down’ or struggling to adjust to a post-baby body. I don’t wish to dismiss the distress of women who are unhappy about their weight, and it may indeed contribute to a mother’s PPD if she is at risk. But having suffered from depression myself, I know that depression is a very different animal than ordinary unhappinesses.

    Other things that are risk factors for postpartum depression include: a history of depression and anxiety, childhood trauma or history of abuse, medical complications in pregnancy, poverty & social isolation, low self-esteem.

    Some sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpartum_depression, http://www.postpartumprogress.com/weblog/faq.html

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  4. As a Dad to be, i like to know more about Postpartum Depression. Few months from now, my wife would give birth to our first baby and i am excited already. But this thing first well get my attention. I know most moms suffer and undergo this kind of phenomenon behavior. I need to know what to do when this happens, thank you for giving time posting some good information about the postpartum depression. This can help.

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