Depression in expectant fathers might lead to premature birth of their babies, says a recently published study. It thus contradicts the general belief about only maternal factors being responsible for premature births.
The research, “Prenatal parental depression and preterm birth: a national cohort study,” published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in January 2016, found a link between paternal depression with premature birth. As opposed to premature births often linked to maternal factors, evidence found from the study of over 350,000 births between 2007 and 2012, focusing on extremely premature births (between 22 and 31 weeks), and moderate (32 to 36 weeks) concluded that both new paternal and maternal depression are potential risk factors for preterm growth.
Scientists in Sweden who carried out the study to understand the impact of depression in men on their unborn children found out that only expectant fathers with newly diagnosed depression heighten the risk of very premature birth by 38 percent. However, those who had recurrent depression did not increase the risk. Mothers with new or recurrent depression increased the likelihood of having moderately premature births by 30 to 40 percent.
For the purpose of the study, parents were defined as clinically depressed if they had taken anti-depressants or received hospital treatment for the condition in the 12 months before the child was conceived or the second trimester of pregnancy.
Stressing on the need for treatment of depression in both men and women, and the impact untreated depression have on the health of their infant, Professor Anders Hjern from the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm said, “Depression in a partner could be a ‘substantial’ source of stress for an expectant mother, which could result in the risk of a preterm birth.” He added, “Paternal depression is also known to affect sperm quality, have epigenetic effects on the DNA of the baby, and can also affect placenta function. However, this risk seems to be reduced for recurrent paternal depression, indicating that perhaps treatment for the depression reduces the risk of preterm birth.”
Emphasizing on the possibility that existing treatment for recurrent paternal depression reduces the risk of premature delivery of the offspring, Hjern added, “Our results suggest that both maternal and paternal depression should be considered in preterm birth prevention strategies and both parents should be screened for mental health problems.”
Signs of depression
An aggressive and ardent approach towards looking after the mental health of expectant fathers is necessary. Though more research is being undertaken to understand the effect of paternal mental health on the birth of a baby, it is important to note that men are more reluctant to accept help for depression.
Dr. Ian A. Cook, Miller Family professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, revealed, “While the symptoms used to diagnose depression are the same regardless of gender, often the chief complaint can be different among men and women.”
The symptoms of depression which men exhibit are quite different from women. It may include:
- Feelings of hopelessness, anxiousness and irritability
- Loss of interest in day to day activities
- Inability to find pleasure even in the most entertaining circumstances
- Lack of concentration
- Find difficulty in remembering things
- Drastic changes in eating patterns
- Suicidal thoughts
- Sudden change in sleeping habits (including insomnia)
- Consistent pains, headaches and body cramps
People are less likely to seek professional help for depression fearing the stigma that comes with it. It is necessary that symptoms of depression are noticed before it is too late. Depression is not limited to bouts of sadness or temporary phases of gloom, but it’s a persistent and recurring feeling of hopelessness coupled with feelings of intense sadness that keeps a person from functioning normally.
Help is available. Contact the Depression Treatment Helpline to find out more about depression and related problems, and the treatment options. You may call our 24/7 helpline at 866-619-7729 or chat online for further information.