New Dads May Get Postpartum Depression As Often as New Moms

Growing families would benefit from a robust network of support following a baby’s birth, researchers say.

(Inside Science) — Today, at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco, two psychologists will present individual literature reviews of published studies and clinical information from practitioners indicating that fathers of newborns experience depression at a similar rate as mothers. They say postpartum depression affects not just new mothers, but fathers as well.

The researchers, psychologists Sara Rosenquist, of the Center for Reproductive Health Psychology in Cary, North Carolina, and Dan Singley, of the Center for Men’s Excellence in San Diego, support a growing body of research suggesting that intense emotional, social and physiological changes — rather than fluctuating hormones — are the biggest contributors to postpartum depression. Doctors and society at large, they say, need to provide parents of newborns more support if they aim to meaningfully decrease cases of postpartum depression.

“Bringing home a baby, one way or another, is highly stressful and disruptive,” Rosenquist told Inside Science. “You have to reorganize your sense of self, your entire social network, your entire life, and we don’t do a particularly good job — in fact, we do a particularly bad job — in our culture of supporting new families in this transition.”

According to Rosenquist, in the weeks immediately following the birth of a child, both biological and adoptive parents of either sex can exhibit a wide range of physical as well as psychological symptoms that fall under the umbrella of depression. Studies consistently show that about 10 percent of new fathers are diagnosed with depression in this time period, which is statistically similar to the 7-15 percent of women who are diagnosed with depression. Adoptive parents exhibit symptoms at similar rates, said Rosenquist.