- Postnatal depression is normally suspected in only one parent.
- A new study, however, shows that both parents are at risk.
- The study results suggest that healthcare workers assess both parents after the child's birth for perinatal depression.
A new study has found that both mothers and fathers experience antenatal (before birth) depression, and that both parents can concurrently experience perinatal (after birth) mood disorders.
The study published in JAMA Network Open assessed how often mothers and fathers experience perinatal mood disorders.
The researchers reviewed 23 studies involving a total of 29 286 couples with low-risk pregnancies, published between 1 January 1990 and 8 June 2021. The study evaluated the prevalence of perinatal mood disorders in parents and identified factors associated with such disorders.
The study found that both mothers and fathers experienced perinatal depression, and that prevalence was higher in the late postnatal period, which is between three and 12 months after the birth of their child.
The study results show that mothers who experienced psychosocial factors, such as early life stressors, limited social support, and exposure to intimate partner violence, were more at risk of developing a perinatal mood disorder.
The study shows that in fathers, lower levels of education, unemployment, low social support and marital distress were some of the reasons for perinatal mood disorder.
"There is evidence that a healthy father-child relationship can mitigate against poorer child outcomes in cases of maternal depression. In cases of paternal depression, a healthy mother-child relationship will likely offer similar protection. However, when both parents are depressed, this buffering effect is lost, further increasing the risk for poor mental and physical health outcomes for their child," the study states.
The study authors recommend that healthcare workers assess mothers and fathers for postnatal depression.
"These findings suggest health care workers caring for new or expectant parents should be aware that both parents can concurrently experience perinatal mood disorders, with consequences for their health and well-being as well as that of their infant," the authors wrote.