Family life: Can dads suffer from postnatal depression too?

Dads can suffer from postnatal depression too, says our expert.
Dads can suffer from postnatal depression too, says our expert.

Q: “I’ve just had my first baby and while I feel fine, my husband seems low. Could his depression be linked to the baby – I thought it was just mothers who got postnatal depression?”

Lisa says: “Approximately one in 40 men reported experiencing depression in the past year, and this number may rise to around one in 25 during the postnatal period according to our recent study on 3,523 men whose babies were nine months old.

“In the study, those particularly at risk of developing symptoms postnatally were men who had a past history of depression, were unemployed, or were experiencing relationship difficulties.

“The risk of depression after the birth of a child is lower for men than for women – in the same study, one in 12 mothers experienced postnatal depression symptoms.

“However, it’s still important that we recognise and treat symptoms of depression among fathers, given the influence they have on their children’s development and on their partner’s wellbeing.

“It’s also important to realise that both men and women can experience prenatal depression (symptoms that occur during pregnancy).

“We need to reach men and women who are vulnerable to postnatal and/or antenatal depression by talking more about mental wellbeing and the support services available as part of the discussions that health providers have with couples during pregnancy.”

* Dr Lisa Underwood is a research fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and has just led a study into prenatal and postnatal depression in fathers.