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Dads, Dads-To-Be Also At Risk Of Pregnancy-Related Depression, Says Study

16 February 2017, 9:55 am EST By Dianne Depra Tech Times
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Pregnancy-related depression symptoms have been mostly attributed as affecting mothers but a study carried out in New Zealand has shown that fathers are susceptible to the condition as well.   ( Daniel Berehulak | Getty Images )

Fathers are also vulnerable to pregnancy stress, exhibiting elevated levels of depression symptoms while their partners are pregnant and for up to nine months after their child was born, says a New Zealand study.

Published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, the study was carried out by Lisa Underwood and colleagues as a follow-up to earlier research involving perinatal depression in mothers. It assessed for depression symptoms that manifested before and after a child was born based on interviews of 3,523 men while their partners were in their third trimester and nine months after they had given birth.

On average, the men were 33 years at the time they were interviewed before their child was born.

Depression In Dads

The findings show that 2.3 percent of the fathers exhibited elevated levels of depression symptoms while their partner was pregnant while 4.3 percent of the men showed a higher number of depression symptoms nine months after their partner gave birth.

Why the elevation?

According to the researchers, it may have to do with men's level of health and perceived stress in cases where depression symptoms were high during their partner's pregnancy. And when their partner gave birth, the men experienced higher levels of depression possibly because of not being in a relationship with the mother anymore, being unemployed, as well as having a history of depression aside from perceived stress and the kind of health they were in at the time.

"Only relatively recently has the influence of fathers on children been recognized as vital for adaptive psychosocial and cognitive development," said the researchers.

They added that paternal depression can directly or indirectly affect children so it is of importance that symptoms in fathers be recognized and treated as early as possible. And the first step to that? Increasing awareness among men themselves that being a father brings increased depression risk.

Depression In The United States

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines depression as a condition where a person feels unmotivated, hopeless, sad, discouraged, or generally not interested in life. If these feelings last for just a short period of time, they may be attributed to "the blues" but if they start interfering with daily activities and have lasted for at least two weeks, they are likely to be symptoms of a major depressive episode.

In 2014, the ADAA put about 15.7 million adults in the United States aged 18 years old and above as having experienced a minimum of one major depressive episode within the past year. That's 6.7 percent of all American adults!

Depression is one of the most common of mental disorders in the United States and should not be confused with anxiety disorders. However, it is often that those with depression experience symptoms that are similar to what anxiety disorders have, like irritability nervousness, and problems concentrating and sleeping.

A major depressive episode may include the following symptoms:

• Persistent "empty," anxious, or sad mood
• Pessimism or feelings of hopelessness
• Feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, or guilt
• Fatigue
Weight loss and low appetite or weight gain and overeating
• Suicidal thoughts
• Persistent physical symptoms that can't be remedied, such as digestive disorders and headaches

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