There needs to be greater awareness that the mental health disorder
can occur in either parent for up to a year after the birth of a
child, researchers say.
New fathers, like mothers, can grapple with anxiety, depression and
traumas and also struggle to bond with their babies, said Mark
Williams, founder of Fathers Reaching Out, a UK-based charity that
promotes mental health awareness. Williams was not involved in the
In fact, a previously published research review found that one in
four fathers experienced postpartum depression within three to six
months after a child was born.
Study leader Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at Anglia
Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, started researching the subject
after he was diagnosed with the disorder after the birth of his son.
"Once I was diagnosed, I wanted to do more research into it and find
out why so many people, like myself, think that men can't get
postnatal depression," Swami told Reuters Health via phone.
Swami and his colleagues recruited 406 volunteers, ages 18 to 70,
and had them read two vignettes describing almost identical
situations where the subject suffered from postpartum depression,
but one with a man and another with a woman.
Participants were initially asked if they believed anything was
wrong with the subjects. Almost everyone - 97 percent -- responded
'yes' for the vignette with the woman, and 79.5 percent responded
'yes' for the male.
Next, participants were asked what they thought was wrong. In the
case of the mother, 90.1 percent correctly listed postpartum
depression, postnatal depression or depression, while only 46.4
percent did so for the father.
Answers listing 'baby blues' as the reason were scored as incorrect
because this kind of short-lived mood swing is different from
postnatal or postpartum depression and usually resolves within a
week after birth, Swami and his team write in the Journal of Mental
For the woman, a clear majority of 92.9 percent said depression was
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Among those who did feel something was off with the man in the case
study, 61 percent correctly thought it could be some form of
depression. But 20.8 percent thought the father's symptoms could be
stress, 11 percent responded with tiredness and stress, and a few
others said it could be anxiety, feeling neglected or "baby blues."
The invisibility of their depression may force fathers to cope on
their own instead of seeking professional help, the research team
One shortcoming of the study is that participants were recruited
online, so they may not represent all adults, the researchers note.
"Because many people do not realize that men can get PND (postnatal
depression), it is easier minimize the symptoms, the severity of PND,
or the need to reach out and seek help," said Brandon Eddy, an
assistant professor from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who was
not involved in the study.
But some of the new results are encouraging, he said.
"Although a much higher percentage of respondents recognized PND in
women, there was still a substantial amount that recognized PND in
father," Eddy said via email.
"There are many fathers out there who suffer from PND who think they
are alone and nobody sees their suffering. More people are beginning
to recognize that paternal PND is real," he added.
Previous research has shown that educational programs about maternal
postnatal depression can improve awareness of the disease, the
"Similarly rigorous programs to support new fathers and raise
awareness of paternal postnatal depression are now urgently
required," they said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2VBNEyZ Journal of Mental Health, online May
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