Pregnancy Can Mean Mental Health Risk for Dads Too

A new Australian study finds that women are not alone when it comes to mental health issues during pregnancy and the time around and after birth.

Although it is well-recognized that 20 percent of women will suffer from perinatal and postpartum mood disorders, a new review finds that anxiety and depression also occur in around 1 in 10 men.

Mental health researcher Dr. Liana Leach reviewed 43 separate studies and found anxiety before and after a child arrives is just as prevalent as depression in men.

“Men can feel left out of the process, because pregnancy and childbirth are so integrally linked to the mother,” said Leach, from The Australian National University (ANU) Centre for Ageing, Health and Wellbeing.

“It can compound the problem. They don’t seek help, because they think ‘it’s not so much about me.'”

The causes of anxiety and depression around the arrival of a new baby are poorly understood. While results from individual studies vary, some studies suggest more than 1 in 5 parents suffer from anxiety or depression.

The study will appear in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

“Having a new baby is a time of great adjustment for many parents, and it is normal to be nervous, but anxiety can become a problem when it persists for extended periods and interferes with every day functioning,” Leach said.

Symptoms of anxiety can include worrying or feeling keyed up much of the time, feeling irritable, and fears for the baby’s safety. Physical symptoms can include a racing heart, feeling sweaty, poor sleep and poor appetite.

There is good help available and people should in the first instance contact their physician, Leach said.

“Couples should be aware of their mental health right from when they realize they are pregnant. Early intervention reduces the severity and duration of symptoms,” she said.

Researchers discovered risk factors for perinatal mood disorders include a lack of social support especially from a partner, financial difficulties and a history of mental health problems.

“Health care during the perinatal period should be about the whole family,” Leach said.

Source: Australian National University

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