HEALTH

It’s Not Just Moms—Dads-To-Be Get Depressed Too

A new study finds 13 percent of expectant fathers struggle with the "baby blues"

Oct 05, 2015 at 6:35 PM ET

It isn’t just women who struggle with the so-called “baby blues.” As the title of a new study from McGill University puts it, “dads get sad too”—and without even having to put on one of those empathy bellies.

The research, published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, surveyed 622 expectant fathers and found that 13.3 percent reported higher levels of depressive symptoms during their partner’s third trimester of pregnancy. That is notable, although lower than the rate of depression during pregnancy for women, which is as high as 18.4 percent, according to a 2005 study. But it is comparable to the rate of post-partum depression in women, which has been shown to range from 13 to 19 percent. The researchers found several factors associated with these raised levels of depression, including a lack of social support, stressful life events, financial strain, a family history of mental health problems and elevated depression symptoms in a man’s pregnant partner.

Surprisingly, many studies have actually looked at paternal post-partum depression, finding that anywhere from 1.2 to 25.5 percent of dads experience it—but pre-natal depression gets scant attention when it comes to the guys. “The mental health of men remains a neglected area of research and one that is not adequately addressed during the transition to parenthood,” says author Deborah Da Costa, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University.

Da Costa hopes the study will increase awareness not just among new and expectant parents, but also the healthcare providers who they encounter in routine prenatal appointments. As the study concludes, “These findings highlight the importance of including fathers in the screening and early prevention efforts targeting depression during the transition to parenthood, which to date have largely focused only on women.”