In recent years, there’s been a lot of focus on diagnosing and treating mothers who suffer from prenatal and postpartum depression.
And now a recent study shows that new dads can suffer too.
In the study (of more than 3,500 New Zealand men), researchers found that 2.3 percent of the men had prenatal depression and 4.3 percent had depression postpartum. This number is significantly lower than depression in women, which can affect as many as 20 percent of new moms. Researchers say depression in moms is attributed to hormonal changes or stress from an unplanned pregnancy, domestic violence or lack of support.
So what’s going on with dads?
According to the study, fathers are at risk for prenatal depression if they are stressed or in poor health during the pregnancy. Other factors like a history of depression, unemployment or no longer being in a relationship with the mother can be a risk as well once the baby is born.
Researchers say paternal depression can be difficult for the whole household, potentially causing money issues as well future “emotional and behavioral problems” in the child. And even though the percentage of men being affected sounds pretty low — with 4 million babies being born every year in the U.S. — experts say it potentially affects a lot of families. Plus, previous studies of depression in new dads have shown even higher rates.
That isn’t surprising. As we all know, having the baby will not make depression magically disappear. Dads must be screened and treated. The sooner, the better.