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Now, it’s dad’s turn. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal have mapped similar signs of depression in Canadian expectant fathers—and the lifestyle concerns that may be involved.
Just as expectant mothers are screened during pregnancy for signs of mental health problems, so too should expectant fathers, the study suggests. While their partners are going through both physical and mental changes, men can experience a range of emotions, from temporary “baby blues” to clinical depression, all of which can linger after baby is born.
Of the 622 Quebec first-time expectant fathers studied over a period of a year and a half, researchers found that 13.3 percent of expectant fathers experienced elevated rates of depressive symptoms during their wife or partner’s pregnancy, according to a press release.
Poor sleep quality, physical activity levels, worrying about supporting a new baby financially, and the health of the relationship with the baby-to-be’s mother were all potential factors in the shift. It appears that for men, pre-natal depression is just as, or more, likely to occur than post-partum depression.
Asking about a man’s lifestyle concerns may be one way to pick up any emerging mental illness issues during conversations with health care providers during pregnancy check-ups, the authors said.
While the prevalence of pre-natal depression in men has not been studied in Canada before, say the researchers, this study adds to a growing body of evidence of the nature of pre- and post-natal depression in men.
Why screening matters
For both men and women, episodes of depression before a baby is born increase the risk of post-partum depression. There’s some evidence that an expectant dad is more at risk of depression if his partner is depressed. Not only is this an obvious concern for the mental health of parents, but parents with depression are known to have a negative impact on an infant’s development.
The McGill researchers see another broad benefit to screening dads for depression. "Pregnancy may be a ‘teachable moment’ for educating and preparing men at risk for mental health difficulties," write the authors in the study, and health care providers should think about strategies to promote lifestyle and social support for them.
Read on for look at the stages of modern fatherhood and a list of what pregnant women wished they knew before getting pregnant.