Postpartum Depression – fathers experience it too (Issue 31 Preview)

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The birth of a child is a complex emotional process, mainly characterised by joy and excitement. However, new mums can also experience fear, anxiety, and, in some severe cases, depression. Statistics indicate that post-childbirth, one in ten women suffer from the mental health condition called postpartum depression (PPD). It is triggered by chemical changes occurring in the women’s body after delivery as levels of the reproductive hormones, progesterone and estradiol, drop dramatically. PPD cases also show increases in the stress hormone cortisol and decreases in the happiness hormone oxytocin.

Interestingly, some studies have highlighted that fathers can also suffer from postpartum depression. Previously this has been largely overlooked as studies on this subject matter are mostly women-centric. According to a Swedish study, conducted by Johansson et al. in 2017, 11.3% of mothers experience depressive symptoms for a duration of 25 months following childbirth. The same study indicates that 4.9% of fathers develop paternal PPD. Even though the percentage of fathers compared to mums developing PPD is less than half, it still remains a serious health concern and requires the appropriate treatment. However, it is also important to highlight that this difference could result from poor diagnosis due to the stigma surrounding men’s mental health.

As mentioned above, women develop PPD as their body undergoes several hormonal, emotional, and physical changes throughout gestation. Manifestations of paternal PPD seem to be similar as in women, including fatigue, anxiety, changes in appetite, sleeping problems, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

To read the full article, head over to Issue 31: Science in the 22nd Century

Written by Ioanna Kougianou (she/her), a current Postgraduate Associate at Yale University and recent neuroscience graduate from the University of Edinburgh.

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