What demographic, social, relationship, and health factors are associated with depression symptoms among men whose partners are pregnant or recently gave birth?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Underwood L, Waldie KE, Peterson E, D’Souza S, Verbiest M, McDaid F, Morton S. Paternal Depression Symptoms During Pregnancy and After Childbirth Among Participants in the Growing Up in New Zealand Study. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 15, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.4234