New fathers need help with depression: New Zealand study

WELLINGTON — The risk of depression among fathers before and after the birth of their children is more common than previously thought, proving a risk to the well-being of their families, New Zealand researchers said Thursday.

The University of Auckland study found that expectant fathers were at risk if they felt stressed or were in poor health, and elevated depression symptoms following their child’s birth were linked to social and relationship problems.

The study investigated depression symptoms in more than 3,500 New Zealand men during the third trimester of their partner’s pregnancy and again nine months after their child’s birth.

During the perinatal period (from the third trimester of pregnancy to nine months after birth), 217, or 6.2 percent of the men experienced symptoms of depression.

Around one in 25 men reported symptoms of postnatal depression while antenatal depression only affected about one in 50.

By comparison, more mothers suffered depression symptoms before than after the birth of their children.

One in six mothers reported significant depressive symptoms at either the antenatal interview or when their children were nine months old.

One in eight experienced antenatal depression symptoms with one in 12 experiencing symptoms postnatally.

Study author Dr Lisa Underwood said that while maternal antenatal and postnatal depression were recognized and known to be associated with poor outcomes for women and children, little had been done to identify perinatal depression symptoms in men.

“Increasingly, we are becoming aware of the influence that fathers have on their children’s psychosocial and cognitive development,” Underwood said in a statement.

“Given the potential for paternal depression to have direct and indirect effects on children, it is important that we recognize and treat symptoms among fathers early,” she said.

“Arguably, the first step in doing this is to raise awareness about factors that lead to increased risks among fathers themselves.” PNA/