Sunday, August 13, 2006


Postpartum Depression Hits Dads, Too

By Ed Edelson

MONDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Almost as many new fathers as mothers suffer depression after the birth of a child, a new study shows.

About 14 percent of mothers and 10 percent of fathers showed signs of moderate or severe postpartum depression, according to the study, which followed more than 5,000 members of two-parent families.

"There have been a few small studies in the last two years showing this, but nothing has been known on a national basis," said study leader James F. Paulson, an assistant professor of pediatrics and psychology and behavioral sciences at the Eastern Virginia Medical School Center for Pediatric Research.

The findings are published in the August issue of Pediatrics.

New parents who participated in the study filled out questionnaires and were interviewed to determine whether they showed symptoms of depression. Their relationships with their children were determined by questioning such practices as breast-feeding, putting the child to bed on his or her back, and whether the parents read to, played peek-a-boo with or sang to the child.

"What we found in this study is that basic day-to-day interactions were impaired in fathers, just as they were in mothers," Paulson said. "Also, basic activities were impaired."

Pediatricians should make a greater effort to identify postpartum depression in both mothers and fathers, Paulson said. "Pediatricians, in general, may be in the best position to catch depression, but they don't often do it," he said, adding he's now doing a study to look at patterns of screening for postpartum depression.

Dr. William Coleman is a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on the psychosocial aspects of child and family health. "Physicians do a very poor job asking about or detecting postpartum blues in the mother, and they may not even see the father," he said. "They might detect the mother's feelings, but may not even ask the father."

Fathers usually feel elation after a birth, Coleman said, but that feeling of "engrossment" can fade away, depending on family circumstances.

That can happen "if the mother is very, very controlling and wants the baby all to herself," Coleman said. "Also, fathers can experience frustration, sexual and emotional, if they forget to remember that the wife is not interested in sex at that time. If the wife is very motherly and maternal, he might feel kind of useless, on the periphery."

Depression in a father leads to a well-known pattern of behavior, Coleman said. "He tends to work longer, to watch sports more, to drink more and be solitary," he said.

One problem in detecting postpartum depression in fathers is that "pediatricians are not told to inquire about adult issues," Coleman said. "It is a silent game."

Yet, it's important to detect postpartum depression in a father for the sake of the child's long-term outlook, Paulson said. "Based on what we know of mothers' postpartum depression, it is associated with health problems later on, not only emotional problems and difficulties adjusting to school but also basic health problems," he said.


Blogger Pat Paulk said...

And I always thought it was because I liked to drink, watch (some) sports and feel sorry for myself. Very interesting read. I'll have to think back to my child rearing years and try to determine if I was.

7:53 AM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks Pat! I'd love to hear the male perspective on this - my skepticism stems from the idea that postpartum depression is a biological reaction to flux hormones. So maybe they are describing something that should have a different name? The other red flag is that they are qualifying a relationship with a child as to whether or not a mother breastfeeds - there are sooooo many valid reasons why a mother would choose not too.

4:59 PM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger Pat Paulk said...

Julia, I didn't. Feeling neglected definitely sounds like a "man" thing. But that's not post partum depression. That's just being male. I'm sure a good fancy name for it should be worth a grant for studying.

5:48 PM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Feeling neglected is a "person" thing. I think this article is looking for an PR spin by calling this postpartum - when it really should be called a natural dip in life.

Let's think of the fancy name ourselves!

6:46 PM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger Pat Paulk said...


7:33 PM, August 15, 2006  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Agree "postpartum" be reserved for women as it is hormone specific. However, many new fathers & mothers do experience depression that is not hormonally based linked to the adjustment of putting a baby's needs over their own. Unfortunately, many pre-natal courses or obs do not address this common reaction to birth, leaving parents unaware that their feelings are normal. The guilt of appearing selfish can lead to varying levels of depression or anger. Reminds me of why you started this blog, Julia, to speak in a more balanced manner about child rearing or in this case the birth of a child. Agree that breast feeding should remain a non issue.

5:03 PM, August 16, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

Thanks for the laugh, Pat, I can't think of anything to top that!

Hi Nancy, thanks for your thoughtful comment. This should be addressed for moms and dads. As for breastfeeding, my toxicologist husband pointed out that it actually may be an issue because it releases hormones that help to avoid depresson - I hand't thought of that!

7:04 AM, August 17, 2006  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I always appreciate Craig's insights. Yes, the medication/hormones given to women to prevent lactation can increase a new mother's possibility of depression, however, that does not account for the millions of moms who do breast feed and still have postpartum depression. So while I agree that it can be a contributing factor, to assume that not breast feeding in isolation causes the depression without other factors may not be completely accurate either. Wonder what sort of study could figure that one out, as personality and perhaps a predepostion towards depression need to be taken into account?

8:00 AM, August 17, 2006  

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