Post-natal depression in women gets attention from health professionals and the research community. How pregnancy and the time after birth can affect fathers is less studied. Just like the mother, expectant and new fathers also experience stressors that can increase their risk of depression.

New Zealand researchers identified characteristics linked with depression symptoms among men whose partners were pregnant and subsequently gave birth.

The research involved more than 3,500 men interviewed during the third trimester of their partner’s pregnancy. Nine months later, the men took part in another interview.

Rates of paternal depression came in at around two percent in the antenatal period and four percent in the postnatal period. A doubling in antenatal depression risk was observed in men who reported their health to be in a poor to fair state during their partner’s pregnancy. Having a high level of perceived stress also increased the risk of depression.

For the post-natal period, being in fair to poor heath, having a relationship breakdown, becoming unemployed and having a history of depression all raised the risk of depression.

Implications

Acknowledging that men are also affected by depression around the time of pregnancy and after and knowing the factors that can increase the risk are important steps towards treating depression early in new dads.

Last Reviewed: 08/01/2020

© Norman Swan Medical Communications.



References

Underwood L et al. Paternal depression symptoms during pregnancy and after childbirth among participants in the growing up in New Zealand Study. JAMA Psychiatry Epub online February 15, 2017. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.4234.