Expecting a baby is always regarded as a time of joy for many men. However, for some others, this bundle of joy could be linked to greater risks of depression. According to a JAMA Psychiatry published study, for fathers-to-be, the symptoms that often indicate that they are at a risk of depression include feeling stressed and experiencing ill health. Even after their wives are delivered of the baby, some fathers may still experience an escalated level of these depression symptoms.
Mothers are open to the risks of both pre- and postpartum depression. This, as well as the changes in hormone that might add to their symptoms, have long been known to researchers. Now, there is new evidence amidst breakthrough researches that finally shed informed light on the occurrence of depression in fathers, as well as the understanding of those factors that can possibly contribute to the manifestations of their symptoms. In summary, maternal depression has long been identified and recognized. Now, researches are shedding more light on the occurrence and risks of paternal depression.
In a new study involving data on up to 3,523 New Zealand men who participated in interviews while their wives were pregnant, and also upon the delivery of their children between 2009 and 2010, symptoms of elevated prenatal depression were found in 82 fathers, approximately 2.3% of the test population, while symptoms of elevated postnatal depression were found in 153 fathers, or 4.3% of the population.
The fathers-to-be all took part in and finished interviews that were intended to accurately measure depression symptoms. They also answered varying questions about their family environment, overall health, and stress. The average age of the participants was 33, and they were picked from a specific cohort.
Lisa Underwood, the New Zealand study’s lead author, and a University of Auckland’s research fellow said, “The rates of antenatal and postnatal paternal depression that we found are consistent with previous similar studies in other countries including the United States.”
The researchers found out that the symptoms of depression were usually associated with adverse relationship and social factors, as well as having a depression history.
“It was surprising that, for men in the Growing Up in New Zealand study, factors such as unplanned pregnancy, ethnicity, and anxiety were not associated with either antenatal or postnatal paternal depression,” said Underwood.
However, there were some limitations in the study. Underwood said, “We used brief screening measures to assess depression symptoms and were not able to carry out full diagnostic assessments of depression.”
She added that because the men that participated in the depression study were only interviewed during the last three months of the pregnancy, as well as nine months after delivery, it is possible that the result fails to reflect what could have happened during the first two trimesters of the pregnancy, or the period that immediately followed childbirth.
Still, researchers are of the opinion that the new findings can be of great help in developing intervention and screening efforts for fathers-to-be.