From the Journals

First-time fathers at risk of postnatal depressive symptoms



First-time fathers may be at risk of experiencing depressive symptoms as they transition to parenthood – especially if risk factors such as poor sleep are present, results of a prospective study of more than 600 new fathers show.


“Strategies to promote better sleep, mobilize social support, and strengthen the couple relationship may be important to address in innovative interventions tailored to new fathers at risk for depression during the perinatal period,” wrote Deborah Da Costa, PhD, of McGill University, Montreal, and colleagues. The study was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

To determine the prevalence of depressive symptoms in first-time fathers and identify notable risk factors, the researchers surveyed 622 Canadian men during their partner’s third trimester. The same group was surveyed again at 2 and 6 months postpartum. Depression was assessed via the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), and additional variables such as sleep quality, social support, and stress were gathered as well.

Of the initial 622 men surveyed, 487 (78.3%) and 375 (60.3%) completed the questionnaires at 2 and 6 months postpartum, respectively. The prevalence of paternal depressive symptoms was 13.76% (95% confidence interval, 10.70-16.82) at 2 months and 13.6% (95% CI, 10.13-17.07) at 6 months. Of the men who reported depressive symptoms at 2 months postpartum, 40.3% also experienced symptoms during the third trimester. Of the men who reported depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum, 24% experienced symptoms during the third trimester and after 2 months.

At 2 months, the risk of depressive symptoms increased for men with worse sleep quality (odds ratio, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.10-1.42), poorer couple relationship adjustment (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.94-0.99), and higher parenting stress (OR, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.02-1.11). At 6 months, there was a significant association between paternal depressive symptoms and unemployment (OR, 3.75; 95% CI, 1.00-13.72), poorer sleep quality (OR, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.16-1.65), lower social support (OR, 0.92; 95% CI, 0.84-1.00), poorer couple relationship adjustment (OR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.92-0.98), and higher financial stress (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.04-1.42).

The authors acknowledged their study’s limitations, including a middling response rate that could affect the accuracy of prevalence estimates and a well-educated, largely middle-class sample that could limit generalizability. In addition, they assessed depressive symptoms by self-report and not diagnostic clinical interviews. However, they also noted that “the EPDS is the most widely used tool to assess depressive symptoms in parents during the perinatal period and was validated in expectant and new fathers.”

The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. No conflicts of interest were reported.

SOURCE: Da Costa D et al. J Affect Disord. 2019 Apr 15;249:371-7.

Next Article: