NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Postpartum depression is not just for new moms: About 1 in every 10 new dads suffers postpartum depression, most often in the 3 to 6 months after delivery, according to new research released Tuesday.
Based on their findings, the researchers say more efforts should be made to spot depression in new dads, especially in light of mounting evidence that dad's postpartum depression may have "substantial emotional, behavioral, and developmental effects on children," they note.
While up to 30 percent of new moms may suffer postpartum blues, little is known about how fathers fare mentally with the impending birth of a child and soon after the little one comes home from the hospital, Dr. James F. Paulson, and co-investigator Sharnail D. Bazemore, of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk note in tomorrow's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) -- a theme issue on mental health.
To investigate, Paulson and Bazemore pooled data from 43 studies involving about 28,000 participants that documented depression in fathers between the first 3 months of pregnancy and the first year after delivery.
Overall, they estimated that about 10 percent of fathers experience depression before or soon after the birth of a child. For comparison, about 5 percent of men in the general population will suffer depression over the course of one year. This suggests that depression in expecting or new dads "represents a significant public health concern," the authors say.
Paulson and Bazemore also found that the 3 to 6 months after birth seems to be the most vulnerable time for dads, with rates of depression topping 25 percent. This is also the highest risk time period for new moms.
The team reports that expecting and new fathers in the US tended to have higher rates of depression (14 percent) than their peers in other countries (8 percent). Why this is so is a question for future studies, the authors say.
Paulson and Bazemore also found a link between depression in mom and depression in dad. Therefore, "depression in one parent should prompt clinical attention to the other," they advise.
In a telephone interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Peter Schmidt, of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the study, noted that "depression is a prevalent condition in both men and women and can happen anytime, even at a time which is ostensibly supposed to be a happy time for both the parents."
"The events surrounding pregnancy and childbirth can be stressful for both partners. It would be hard for the man to be in the woman's shoes but it could be similarly stressful for both parents," Schmidt said, who studies the relationship between hormones, stress, and mood, including postpartum depression.
Schmidt said in his clinic, if mom is suffering postpartum depression, "more often than not we ask that both new parents come in and sometimes we see postpartum depression in the dad as well as the mom."
He also noted that while a specific biological pathway is thought to underlie postpartum depression in women, "I don't think you could extrapolate that same biology to be similar in men."
SOURCE: here JAMA/Journal of the American Medical Association, May 19, 2010.