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Dads experience postpartum depression too

About 10 percent of fathers experience prenatal or postpartum depression, with rates being highest during the period of 3 to 6 months following the baby’s birth, according to research analysis in the May 19, 2010 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

James F. Paulson, Ph.D., of the East­ern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Va., presented the findings of the study at a JAMA media briefing on mental health.

It is well established that prenatal and postpartum depression in mothers is prevalent and has negative personal, family, and child developmental outcomes, but the prevalence, risk factors and effects of depression among new fathers has received little attention from researchers and clinicians.

Forty-three studies involving 28,004 participants that documented depression in fathers between the first trimester and the first year after the baby’s birth were included in the analysis of co-authors Dr. Paulson and co-author Sharnail D. Bazemore, M.S., of the Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Dads more than twice as likely to suffer depression as other men

Among the findings of the researchers:

  • The overall estimate of paternal depression was 10.4 percent, compared to 4.8 percent among men in the general population.
  • The 3- to 6-month postpartum period showed the highest rate (25.6 percent) and the first 3 postpartum months showed the lowest rate (7.7 percent).
  • There is a moderate correlation between depression in fathers and mothers.

The authors suggest that more efforts should be made to improve screening and referral of expecting and new dads, particularly in light of the growing evidence that early paternal depression may have substantial emotional, behavioral, and developmental effects on children. They also advise that when one parent is depressed, doctors should screen the other.

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