Research suggests new dads suffer from depression almost as much as new moms
We recently learned that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now wants to screen new mothers for depression sooner than the standard six-week postpartum checkup. But a new study suggests we might want to start screening new dads for depression, too.
The stress, emotional upheaval, and lack of sleep can contribute to new moms being so depressed, they struggle to take care of their babies and themselves properly. Which is why the ACOG wants to start screening new moms for postpartum depression at three weeks instead of waiting until six. Until now, there wasn’t a lot of research on how depression affects new fathers — and it turns out they’re almost just as likely to be affected by depression as new moms.
Researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine analyzed nearly 10,000 pediatric community health center visits by parents of newborns, infants, and toddlers. A majority of parents who brought their kids in for visits were mothers, but the findings show 4.4 percent of fathers screened positive for depression — which is almost equal to the five percent of mothers who screened positive.
Depression in fathers affects a child’s development and behavior in the same way as moms, so identifying and treating depression in new fathers should be just as important. Parenting is hard, period. Becoming a parent for the first time or bringing a new baby home is one of the most overwhelming, terrifying, and emotional life events in any person’s life. Moms and dads should absolutely be getting equal and valid support.
“We talk so much about gender discrimination in medicine and how women are often undiagnosed and undetected for the same disease or condition that men are. This is the opposite,” said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, the chief medical correspondent for ABC News. “We don’t have our radar up to detect postpartum depression in men and we need to.”
The stigma surrounding mental illness can make it difficult for anyone to admit they’re struggling with depression. Moms and dads alike should be treated with the same type of encouragement and care when it comes to screening them for depression during care visits. “We need to drop the stigma with all mental illness, whoever it affects,” says Ashton. “Obviously dads are just as vulnerable as moms are.”