The researchers also found an association between the risk of maternal and paternal depression. If one parent was depressed, the other was more likely to experience depression.
"This study brings attention to a very important issue that is sometimes overlooked," said Shona Vas, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center. "As joyous an occasion as the birth of a new baby is, it's a tremendous transition, and transitions are stressful. And, it's a change that comes with significant impact on your day-to-day functioning, affecting sleep, taking care of yourself, exercising and more."
According to Paulson and Vas, signs of paternal depression include a sad or depressed mood, a loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed, fatigue, sleep problems, a loss of appetite, feelings of hopelessness and irritability. The problem is, many of these symptoms may be dismissed because people assume that they're due to the new baby, such as sleep problems or changing activities.
Both Paulson and Vas said that education prior to the birth of the child could be very helpful. Just letting parents know that they're at higher risk of depression, what they need to look for and what they can do about it, could help.
"Provide education ahead of time, giving the couple time to talk about options and solutions," said Vas. "Figure out how you'll be able to take time for yourself, while still being supportive. Negotiate as a couple ahead of time how you'll each take time for yourself," she suggested.
If you recognize any of the signs of depression in yourself or a loved one, a primary care doctor is a good place to start seeking treatment, according to the experts.
However, "men are extraordinarily less likely to seek mental health services [than women]," Paulson noted. "If we can get a man in to see his family doctor or even a mental health provider, that's a really major step."
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