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Fathers get depressed during and after pregnancy, too

New study shows men's depression symptoms during pregnancy are tied to their being stressed or in poor health.

Around six per cent of fathers surveyed experienced symptoms of depression.

Around six per cent of fathers surveyed experienced symptoms of depression.

Women aren't the only ones who may feel depressed when welcoming a newborn- a new study from New Zealand finds that some men also experience depressive symptoms during and after their female partners' pregnancies.

In the study of almost 4,000 men, about six per cent had elevated depression symptoms at some point during their partners' pregnancies or the nine months after the birth, researchers found.

"I think it’s important for couples to be aware that either of them can be depressed and they should be seeking help and seeking support," said the study's lead author Lisa Underwood, who is affiliated with the University of Auckland.

Pregnancy and childbirth may put men at an increased risk of depression, Underwood adds, though research typically focuses on women, who are at an increased risk of depression during pregnancy and after childbirth. Still, past research also links depressed fathers to emotional and behavioural problems among children, the researchers write.

The researchers conducted in-home interviews with 3,826 fathers during their female partners' pregnancies. Another round of interviews were conducted with 3,549 of the fathers about nine months after their children's birth.

Underwood and her colleagues found that 2.3 per cent of fathers had elevated symptoms of depression while their female partners were pregnant. During the postnatal period, 4.3 per cent of fathers had elevated depression symptoms after childbirth.  The men's depression symptoms during pregnancy were tied to their being stressed or in poor health.

After childbirth, symptoms were more likely in men who felt stressed during the pregnancy, or were no longer in a relationship with the child's mother, men who rated their health as only fair or poor, those who were unemployed or had a history of depression.

People should also think of depression's influence on the entire family, said James Paulson, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

"There are a lot of treatments for this," he told Reuters Health. "We’ve been dealing with depression for a long time. While we don’t have tailored treatments for paternal depression, we do have interventions for depression and those are effective."

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