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.

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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