postpartum depression can affect both parents at the same time, studies show.
A review of global data found that about 1 in 30 new mothers and fathers suffer from baby blues, a common condition commonly seen in new mothers.
It often strikes within a year of a child’s life and is thought to be related to hormonal changes, fatigue, and adjustment to parenting.
Doctors estimate that up to 20 percent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression, but the psychological effect on men has been less known.
A study conducted by University College London involved 30,000 new parents and found that 3.2 percent of them were suffering from postpartum depression at the same time.
The researchers warned that 650,000 babies are born in the UK every year and a “significant” 20,000 couples are at risk.
About 3.5 million babies are born in the US every year, which suggests that 100,000 couples suffer from symptoms such as constant sadness and low mood.
Dr. Kara Smythe, lead author of the study, called for a shift to a “family-centered care model” that provides better support for new mothers and fathers.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
Postpartum depression is a form of mental disorder that affects more than one in 10 women in the UK and US within a year of giving birth.
Studies show that men can be affected by just as many men as women.
Many parents feel overwhelmed, crying, and restless during the first two weeks after having a baby, often referred to as “baby blues.”
But if symptoms start later or last longer, they may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is just as serious as other forms of mental health disorder.
Lack of pleasure or interest in the outside world
Trying to connect with your child
Rejection of others
Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
Frightening thoughts, such as hurting your child
Patients should not wait until their symptoms simply disappear.
Instead, they should accept that it’s not their fault that they’re depressed, and that doesn’t make them bad parents.
If you or your partner are suffering, talk to your GP or health visitor.
Treatment may include self-help, such as connecting with loved ones, resting when you can, and finding time for activities you enjoy. Therapy may also be prescribed.
In severe cases where other options have failed, antidepressants may be recommended. Doctors will prescribe medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding.
The cause of postpartum depression is unclear, but it is more common in people with a history of mental health problems.
Lack of support from loved ones, a bad relationship with a partner, and a life-changing event such as a bereavement can also increase risk.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include loss of interest in the baby, feelings of hopelessness, inability to stop crying, and inability to enjoy anything.
Some patients also suffer from panic attacks, anxiety and loss of appetite.
The researchers analyzed 23 studies conducted in 15 countries between 1990 and 2021, including the UK and the US.
They contained data on 29,286 couples who had a successful pregnancy.
Each study examined the incidence of anxiety or depression in mothers and fathers using surveys and medical records.
Findings published in the journal JAMA open networkshowed that the risk of both parents suffering from depression at the same time increases after the birth of a child.
About 1.72 percent of couples suffered from depression during pregnancy.
12 weeks after the baby was born, that figure jumped to 2.37%.
And 3.18% of parents fell ill between three and 12 months postpartum.
The researchers also looked at the risk that parents will suffer from mental health problems both at the same time and at different times.
Overall, 11 percent of new mothers and a tenth of new fathers in high-income countries have experienced depression at some point in their pregnancy.
After the birth of a child, 13 percent of women and nine percent of men suffer from a mental disorder.
And the risk of paternal anxiety was three times higher if the mother was depressed.
The team found that mothers were more at risk of poor mental health during or after pregnancy if they suffered from early life stress, limited social support, or had an abusive partner.
Meanwhile, men were at greater risk if they had a low level of education, were unemployed, or had marital problems.
Both women and men who had previously struggled with their mental health were more likely to report problems when they became parents.
Researchers have found that expectant parents who suffer from anxiety and depression are more likely to have problems during pregnancy and difficulty communicating with their newborn, while their child is more likely to have behavioral problems.
A separate study by the same group of researchers found that two out of five new mothers do not have a postnatal check-up six to eight weeks after birth, which is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Excellence.
And men are not examined when they become fathers.
The researchers expressed their hope that doctors will take note of their study and consider new fathers when considering the mental health of new parents.
Current treatment for mental health problems during or after pregnancy includes counseling and antidepressants.
Dr. Smythe said: “In high-income countries such as the US and the UK, over 80 percent of women and over 70 percent of men become parents.
“With a depression prevalence of two to three percent for both members of the parent dyad, the potential burden is significant.”
She added: “Perinatal depression can be lingering.
“Most men and women with depressive symptoms four and eight weeks postpartum continue to have symptoms six months postpartum, and some develop symptoms later in the postpartum period.”
Dr. Smythe said future research should examine how mental health problems develop during and after pregnancy, which could change how doctors treat them.