Men with a history of persistent mental health problems during adolescence and early adulthood are more than four times more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety as they transition to parenthood, an Australian study has found.
With an estimated one-in-10 men experiencing antenatal mental health problems such as depression and/or anxiety, it is hoped the research will raise awareness and help detect those at risk earlier to ensure dads-to-be receive appropriate support.
“Dads’ mental health problems are common and distressing for both men and their families. Knowing who is most likely to experience mental health problems in the transition to parenthood will help us to provide support and treatment for those who need it the most,” said Elizabeth Spry, lead author and researcher at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI).
Researchers at MCRI used data from the 20-year Victorian Intergenerational Health Cohort Study to assess participants for mental health problems.
Participants were assessed a total of nine times between ages 14 and 29, then again during the third trimester of subsequent pregnancies.
The study findings, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open, found of the men to display symptoms of depression and/or anxiety during a partner’s pregnancy, more than two-thirds had a history of similar problems in the years leading up to conception.
“Essentially it was those who had persistent mental health problems from adolescence to young adulthood who had the greatest risk of going on to have problems again during the third trimester of pregnancy, nearly five times more likely to have mental health problems during that period,” said Ms Spry
It was also found the emotional problems experience by fathers during a partner’s pregnancy tended to continue after the birth of the child.
The researchers say they would like couples to be routinely screened for mental health issues, not just the mothers.
“Health services are doing much more for women before and during pregnancy; we should be also considering the mental health of men before and during a partner’s pregnancy,” said senior author Professor George Patton.
This piece was originally published on ‘SBS News’ 8 March 2018.