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Friday, May 21, 2010

Depression in New Dads

Maternal depression is a common condition following childbirth, and its negative consequences for all concerned have been studied extensively. Now it turns out that dads, too, suffer a high rate of depression following the birth of a child, a study in the current issue of JAMA reports.

Depression in both parents can develop prior to the birth of the child, but this study reports it most often happens afterward, when the baby is three to six months old. Makes a lot of sense to me! I remember those days without regret that they are over. I would add, especially after the birth of my first child, that it was so much more life-altering than I had any idea about. Add to that sleep deprivation, worry about parenting skills or their lack, mountains of laundry, frequent pediatrician visits, and it's no wonder depression ensues. And my children were healthy and my deliveries uncomplicated. How much worse for those who don't have such good fortune.

I write, of course, from the maternal perspective, but this study shows that about 10% of the men who participated in reviewed studies, since this was a meta-analysis, experienced depression. Frequently it was correlated with the development of depression in the partner, and this too makes sense. One of the concerning aspects of the study is the fact that depression on the part of the father, just like that in mothers, may also contribute to negative outcomes for the child.

So what can we do about this depression? One clear answer is to screen for it, especially among partners of women who develop depression during this period. The findings suggest that families should be treated as a unit and screened as such. The big question is how should such depression be treated? The answer is beyond the scope of this study but certainly suggests a direction for future research. In the meantime it may provide comfort to men who experience depression following the birth of their child that it's not an aberration and it's okay to seek help.
Other topics in this week's podcast include depression following traumatic brain injury in the same issue of JAMA, an individual's risk for developing resistant infections with antibiotic use in BMJ, sildenafil or Viagra in a lung condition called pulmonary fibrosis in NEJM, and pesticide residues and risk of ADHD in children in Pediatrics. Please check out our YouTube and until next week, y'all live well.

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