New fathers can—and do—suffer from postpartum depression

    Can fathers have prenatal or postpartum depression?

    According
to a meta-analysis by James Paulson and Sharnail D. Bazemore at Eastern
Virginia Medical School, yes they can—and 10.4 percent of fathers do.

    Paulson, who published his analysis in this week’s issue of JAMA, also presented the findings at a media briefing in New York on Tuesday.

    His
meta-analysis included 43 studies, with 28,004 fathers represented.
Overall, the rate of depression in these men was two times higher than
the rate of depression found in men generally.

    Paulson said
that the analysis showed a “moderate positive association” between
maternal and paternal depression and severity of depression, but the
“cause and effect has not been determined.” Because of this
association, Paulson recommends that if one parent is depressed, the
other be screened (which he acknowledges is easier said than done).

    Prior
research has shown that a child suffers adverse outcomes when a parent
(in most studies, a mother) is depressed. There can be attachment and
bonding issues, along with psychosocial adjustment problems and
psychiatric risks. There are also family dynamic problems, which can
result in marital conflicts and compromised parenting.

    Paulson
is now recruiting subjects—mothers and fathers from the third trimester
of pregnancy to six months postpartum—for research into family systems.
Looking into relational factors and aspects of co-parenting, he will
try to determine “how parents together might affect child outcomes.”

    –Johanna Goldberg

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