Medical Spotlight: Postpartum Depression in New Fathers

108c64e2b68c484905052e69fbd60c3e_psychoses-863-430-cResearch shows that one in ten fathers suffers some sort of postpartum depression after a baby is born – but the subject remains unaddressed and unpopular. The issue might now demand more attention; a new study shows that paternal PPD can affect a father’s ability to properly care for his child and result in behavioral issues in young children.

Researchers at Northwestern University conducted the study in question, which involved 199 couples placed under observation during the first six weeks after a birth and then three years later. The mothers and fathers were individually given questionnaires on the subjects of depression and their children’s behavior. The results, published in “Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice,” seem to show that paternal PPD deserves more attention.

“The fact is that, given that there’s often two parents in the home working with the child, both parents’ depressive symptoms can have a very similar level of effect to the point that both need to be addressed,” remarked Sheehan D. Fisher, a co-author of the study.

More specifically, the study showed that postpartum depression often predicted future depression, which could be connected to erratic or unusual behavior in children.

Postpartum depression is a unique type of depression which sets in after childbirth and includes symptoms of sadness, low energy, fatigue, abnormal sleeping and eating, crying episodes, anxiety, and irritability. The cause of PPD is not yet concretely known.

In an unfortunate domino effect, doctors have traditionally focused on mothers when addressing PPD, and so little information exists on the phenomenon in men, causing less men to notice the symptoms and seek treatment. Fisher summed up the situation of PPD treatment in new fathers as, “underscreened, underdiagnosed and undertreated.”

“Typically, in our culture, fathers haven’t been considered as integral in a child’s care,” Fisher added. “Now that there’s been a transition for fathers being more involved, I think that we’re just starting to see that we need to focus on both of the parents.”