Updated 1 month, 3 weeks ago

Depression can strike new dads, too

During pregnancy the focus is firmly on the mom to be, and after the arrival of the baby, the new bundle of joy becomes the main attraction. This is quite normal and the way it should be; but what happens when dad feels left out and gets all depressed?

Depression in and just after pregnancy is most often associated with moms; but a new study shows expectant and new dads who are in poor health or have high levels of stress can have similar symptoms.

The research involved more than 3,500 men, average age 33, who were interviewed while their partner was in the third trimester of her pregnancy. The men were then re-interviewed nine months after the birth of their child.

"It is important to recognize and treat symptoms among fathers early and the first step in doing that is arguably increasing awareness," said a team led by Lisa Underwood of the University of Auckland.

Elevated depression symptoms were reported by 2.3 percent of the men during their partner's pregnancy and by 4.3 percent of the men nine months after their child was born, Underwood's team found.

Men who felt stressed or who were in relatively poor physical health were more prone to elevated depression symptoms, the findings showed.

And after a child's birth, depression symptoms in fathers were associated with being stressed during the pregnancy, and being in poor health or having a prior history of depression.

Other, social or relationship factors -no longer being in a relationship with the mother and/or being unemployed- also increased the odds for being depressed after the birth of a child, the study authors noted.

Understanding and spotting the signs of paternal depression early "is the first step toward prevention or early treatment and improved health outcomes for fathers, mothers and their children," said Dr. Tina Walch, medical director at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y.

Dr. Ami Baxi directs adult inpatient psychiatric services at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that "this study should emphasize the importance of paternal well-being during and after pregnancy," and the importance of keeping expectant and new dads stress-free and healthy.

Prepared by