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Study: Fathers suffer from postpartum depression too

By Carole Mikita | Posted - May 18, 2010 at 4:09 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Postpartum depression affects from 10 to 30 percent of new mothers, but they are not the only ones.


About 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers have depression. - Women's Health.org

According to the Utah Health Department, 13 percent of new mothers suffer from what is commonly called "The Baby Blues." Usually these down and overwhelming feelings disappear after a few months, but researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School found that just as many new fathers struggle too.

From the moment you learn you're having a baby, through the pregnancy, childbirth and sleepless months with a newborn, becoming parents can be an emotional roller coaster. Many young fathers are thrilled, until it gets to be a bit much.

"You're often exhausted, have not given up other responsibilities, and your sex life has gone down the tubes," says Dr. Scott Bea, of the Cleveland Clinic.


One in 10 fathers may experience prenatal or postpartum depression

The harsh reality of becoming a father, and all the changes that come along with it, can lead to a condition usually associated with new mothers: postpartum depression.

"For a lot of fathers, it's a completely new ballgame," Bea says. "You can't imagine how it changes your life."

A new study from Eastern Virginia Medical School found that about 10 percent of new fathers experience some depression while their partners are pregnant or after the baby is born. Depression in men in the general population is less than 5 percent.

What is postpartum depression?
Depression after childbirth is called postpartum depression. Hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly return to normal. Researchers think the big change in hormone levels may lead to depression. -Womenshealth.gov

Most depressed dads don't feel it right after the baby is born, rather three to six months after the birth.

"First of all, it's very labor intensive. Secondly, you're decentralized in the family. You're no longer the apple of your wife's eye; somebody has displaced you," Bea explains.

But women often don't feel comfortable talking about it. Among men, the subject can be taboo.

"Men are not used to talking about it at all," Bea says. "That's one of the things that puts us at greater risk, is we don't have the language to describe depression; and so we sometimes fall through the cracks."

Experts suggest professional help and finding a babysitter you trust for young parents to share some time alone. It can help.

Researchers also found a correlation between a mother's postpartum depression and a father's. If one spouse is depressed, the other may be too.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com

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Carole Mikita

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