With celebrity moms from Adele to Hayden Panettiere opening up about their struggles with postpartum depression, we've finally reached an era in which the surprisingly common condition is out of the shadows and into the public eye. With this increased awareness and visibility, more new moms are aware of the risks and symptoms of postpartum depression (or even postpartum psychosis) — and therefore more likely to seek treatment if necessary.
But where's Dad in all of this?
For different-sex couples, throughout the experience of pregnancy and birth, it's Mom who does the heavy lifting. Plus, women undergo major hormonal shifts from conception all the way through breast-feeding, and our thyroid hormone levels can nosedive after giving birth. All in all, it makes physiological sense that new moms could tumble into depression. But according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry, men are also susceptible to the baby blues.
The study authors extensively interviewed more than 3,500 men in New Zealand during their partners' pregnancies as well as nine months after childbirth. They found that over 4% of new fathers experienced increased depression symptoms during the postpartum period. Why? The jury's still out, but the researchers suggest that, as with moms, a dad who already has mental health issues may be at a greater risk — especially when you combine that with run-of-the-mill new-parenting sleep deprivation.
"The lack of screening for paternal depression in New Zealand mirrors the international situation," explained the study's lead author Lisa Underwood. "Our key message applies worldwide: Pregnancy and the postnatal period are key opportunities to engage with expectant and new fathers to discuss depression symptoms and provide support."
Welcome to Mothership: Parenting stories you actually want to read, whether you're thinking about or passing on kids, from egg-freezing to taking home baby and beyond. Because motherhood is a big if — not when — and it's time we talked about it that way.