Scientists are increasingly coming to realize that fathers, as well as mothers, can suffer from post-partum depression. (Or, as some researchers prefer to call it when talking about men: depression in the post-natal period.) Despite accumulating research evidence that dads get the baby blues, too, however, the mental troubles of new fathers remain relatively low profile. As I write in a new story in Slate:
Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially recommended that pediatricians begin screening their infant patients’ mothers for signs of postpartum depression. It’s a compelling and simple idea—tired and stressed moms may not take the time to see their own doctors, but you can bet that they won’t miss a single appointment with the pediatrician. Now the AAP should go one more step and recommend that the babies’ doctors look out for depression in new dads, too.
In the last few years, studies have revealed that it’s not just women whose moods can plummet after they become parents. In a 2006 study, James Paulson, a psychologist at Eastern Virginia Medical School, assessed the parents of 5,089 infants and found that 14 percent of the mothers had signs of moderate to severe depression. And so did 10 percent of the fathers. Compare that with the 3 percent to 5 percent of men in the general population who are depressed (as well as the 8 percent or 9 percent of women).
Though the percentages vary, other studies have backed up the idea that for men, as well as women, parenthood can cause a bump in the rates of mood disorders. Depression in new fathers has spawned Web sites and support groups, articles by dads struggling with their new roles, and even a storyline in ABC’s Desperate Housewives this fall.
Still, PPD for dads remains understudied, under-recognized, and controversial…
For more, read the entire story.*
*Apologies for what I know has been a week of self-promoting posts. Just happen to have a few new pieces all out at the same time. Next week, back to tooting other people’s horns–I promise.