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Original Investigation
February 15, 2017

Paternal Depression Symptoms During Pregnancy and After Childbirth Among Participants in the Growing Up in New Zealand Study

Author Affiliations
  • 1Growing Up in New Zealand, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 2Center for Longitudinal Research–He Ara ki Mua, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 3School of Psychology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 4National Institute for Health Innovation, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 5Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 15, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.4234
Key Points

Question  What demographic, social, relationship, and health factors are associated with depression symptoms among men whose partners are pregnant or recently gave birth?

Findings  In a cohort study of 3523 men living in New Zealand, 2% scored higher than 12 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale during the third trimester of their partners’ pregnancy and 4% scored higher than 9 on the 9-item patient health questionnaire 9 months after childbirth. Fathers who were stressed or in poor health had elevated depression symptoms during their partner’s pregnancy and 9 months after the birth of their child; postnatal paternal depression symptoms were also associated with adverse social and relationship factors.

Meaning  The effect of parental depression on families and children can be lowered if symptoms in both men and women are identified early, treated, or prevented.

Abstract

Importance  Antenatal and postnatal depression are known to be common and associated with poor outcomes for women and their children. There is little evidence on depression symptoms among men during the perinatal period.

Objective  To identify characteristics associated with depression symptoms among men whose partners were pregnant and subsequently gave birth.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A longitudinal cohort study provided data from a demographically diverse sample of 3523 New Zealand men who completed interviews during their partner’s pregnancy and 9 months after the birth of their child. Participants were drawn from a cohort whose partners were pregnant women with a due date between April 25, 2009, and March 25, 2010, who were enrolled in the Growing Up in New Zealand study. Data analysis was conducted from September 1, 2015, to January 8, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Depression symptoms were measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire; elevated depression symptoms were defined as scores higher than 12 and 9, respectively.

Results  The mean (SD) age of the participants at the antenatal interview was 33.20 (6.25) years (range, 16-63 years). Elevated antenatal paternal depression symptoms affected 82 fathers (2.3%) and were associated with perceived stress (odds ratio [OR], 1.38; 95% CI, 1.30-1.47) and fair to poor health during their partner’s pregnancy (OR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.18-3.61). Elevated postnatal paternal depression symptoms affected 153 (4.3%) of fathers and were associated with perceived stress in pregnancy (OR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.08-1.17), no longer being in a relationship with the mother 9 months after childbirth (OR, 6.36; 95% CI, 2.28-17.78), having fair to poor health at 9 months (OR, 3.29; 95% CI, 2.10-5.16), being unemployed at 9 months (OR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.11-3.10), and a history of depression (OR, 2.84; 95% CI, 1.69-4.78).

Conclusions and Relevance  Expectant fathers were at risk of depression symptoms if they felt stressed or were in poor health. Rates of elevated depression symptoms were higher during the postpartum period and were associated with adverse social and relationship factors. Identifying fathers most at risk of depressive symptoms and when best to target interventions (antenatal or postnatal) may be beneficial to men and their families.

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