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Fathers Show Risk of Prenatal, Postpartum Depression

Last Updated: May 18, 2010.

A substantial number of expecting and new fathers have prenatal and postpartum depression, and paternal depression is moderately correlated with maternal depression, according to research published in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- A substantial number of expecting and new fathers have prenatal and postpartum depression, and paternal depression is moderately correlated with maternal depression, according to research published in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

James F. Paulson, Ph.D., and Sharnail D. Bazemore, M.S., of the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, performed a meta-analysis of 43 studies that assessed depression in fathers between the first trimester and the first postpartum year. The studies involved 28,004 participants.

The researchers found a wide variation in rates of depression for fathers. However, their estimate of the overall rate of paternal depression during the first trimester through one year postpartum was 10.4 percent. They found that the highest rates of paternal depression were three to six months postpartum. Paternal and maternal depression were positively and moderately correlated.

"The observation that expecting and new fathers disproportionately experience depression suggests that more efforts should be made to improve screening and referral, particularly in light of the mounting evidence that early paternal depression may have substantial emotional, behavioral, and developmental effects on children," the authors write. "The correlation between paternal and maternal depression also suggests a screening rubric -- depression in one parent should prompt clinical attention to the other."

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