Many New Dads Suffer from Depression
Moms are at risk for depression during and after pregnancy, but what about dads? A surprising new study from researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School has found that as many as 10 percent of all fathers experience depression at some point between the first trimester of their partner’s pregnancy and their child’s first birthday. Published May 19, 2010, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study looked at data from over 28,000 fathers. In addition to an overall depression rate of 10.4 percent, researchers found that depression in dads was most likely to strike during the first three to six months following birth—25.6 percent of fathers reported feeling depressed at this time. Depression was also more common in the US. More than 14 percent of American dads experience depression versus the international rate of 8.2 percent.
“Men’s postpartum depression is surprisingly common,” says Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist and researcher in Oakland, California, who is completing research on paternal postpartum depression in collaboration with Harvard’s Center for Men at McLean Hospital, in an interview with ABC News. “In fact, a man’s risk of depression doubles in the nine months after his child is born.” Prenatal and postpartum depression in dads is higher than the annual rate for adult male depression, which currently stands at 4.8 percent. Still, fathers are less likely than mother to experience depression. An estimated 23.8 percent of women will experience either prenatal or postpartum depression.
While researchers speculate that anxiety and worry about impending fatherhood may spark depression in some men, there is also evidence that some dads may actually develop increased estrogen and decreased testosterone levels after birth. While some biologists think this may be nature’s way of keeping men around to care for the baby, those hormone changes can also cause the blues, the ABC News reports points out.
“Just like women, men go through hormonal changes,” Courtenay tells ABC. “[And] there are factors that weigh on us very heavily. One is sleep deprivation, which doesn’t choose a gender, depending on how you work it out with your wife. Another is anxiety.”
Like moms, dads should share with their doctor when they are experiencing signs of prenatal or postpartum depression. Common symptoms include: lack of sleep, appetite changes, excessive fatigue, decreased libido, frequent mood changes, loss of pleasure, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and thoughts of death or suicide.
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