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Sad Dads May Lead to Crying Infants

More factors should be considered than depression among moms, experts say

TUESDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- Don't automatically blame mom: A crying, colicky baby can be just as much the result of dad's state of mind, Dutch researchers report.

Other studies have found that depression among mothers can be related to excessive crying or colic, a common problem with newborns, but the researchers said that little was known about whether fathers' emotions and behavior also have an effect.

"Up to now, almost all attention went to the prenatal effects of maternal depression on child development, leading to the development of detection and treatment programs that focused on mental well-being of mothers," said lead researcher Dr. Mijke P. van den Berg, a psychiatrist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam.

"This study showed the importance of taking paternal factors and well-being during pregnancy into account, next to maternal," she said.

The report is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.

To see how parental depression was related to excessive crying, van den Berg's team gathered data on symptoms of depression among parents of 4,426 infants who were 2 months old. Excessive crying was defined as crying for more than three hours a day on more than three days in the past week.

Overall, just 2.5 percent of the infants in the study fit the excessive crying criteria. But, the researchers found a 30 percent higher risk for depression among parents whose infant cried excessively.

"This finding could not be attributed to co-existing depressive symptoms of the mother, which is already known to be a risk factor for excessive infant crying," van den Berg said. It could be related to genetics, a depressed father or, indirectly, through factors such as marital, family or economic stress, she said.

In fact, a dad with symptoms of depression was twice as likely to have an infant who cried excessively as was a dad who was not depressed, the study found.

"Fathers do matter, so take care for the mental well-being of fathers during pregnancy," van den Berg said.

Dr. Jon Shaw, a professor and director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller of School of Medicine, said that the study shows how depression can lead to infant's excessive crying.

"This study demonstrates in a paradoxical way the importance of fathers, in that fathers' measurable depression during pregnancy is a risk factor for excessive infant crying at 2 months of age," Shaw said.

"This seems to be related perhaps to the enduring effects of fathers' depression on the family ambience, the parental relationship, child parenting and, perhaps as the authors suggest, there may be a genetic factor involved," he said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on depression.

SOURCES: Mijke P. van den Berg, M.D., Ph.D., Departments of Psychiatry/Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; Jon Shaw, M.D., professor and director, child and adolescent psychiatry, University of Miami Miller of School of Medicine, Miami; July 2009 Pediatrics

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