Paternal Depression Symptoms During Pregnancy and After Childbirth Among Participants in the Growing Up in New Zealand Study

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Abstract

Importance

Antenatal and postnatal depression are known to be common and associated with poor outcomes for women and their children. There is little evidence on depression symptoms among men during the perinatal period.

Objective

To identify characteristics associated with depression symptoms among men whose partners were pregnant and subsequently gave birth.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A longitudinal cohort study provided data from a demographically diverse sample of 3523 New Zealand men who completed interviews during their partner’s pregnancy and 9 months after the birth of their child. Participants were drawn from a cohort whose partners were pregnant women with a due date between April 25, 2009, and March 25, 2010, who were enrolled in the Growing Up in New Zealand study. Data analysis was conducted from September 1, 2015, to January 8, 2016.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Depression symptoms were measured using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire; elevated depression symptoms were defined as scores higher than 12 and 9, respectively.

Results

The mean (SD) age of the participants at the antenatal interview was 33.20 (6.25) years (range, 16-63 years). Elevated antenatal paternal depression symptoms affected 82 fathers (2.3%) and were associated with perceived stress (odds ratio [OR], 1.38; 95% CI, 1.30-1.47) and fair to poor health during their partner’s pregnancy (OR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.18-3.61). Elevated postnatal paternal depression symptoms affected 153 (4.3%) of fathers and were associated with perceived stress in pregnancy (OR, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.08-1.17), no longer being in a relationship with the mother 9 months after childbirth (OR, 6.36; 95% CI, 2.28-17.78), having fair to poor health at 9 months (OR, 3.29; 95% CI, 2.10-5.16), being unemployed at 9 months (OR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.11-3.10), and a history of depression (OR, 2.84; 95% CI, 1.69-4.78).

Conclusions and Relevance

Expectant fathers were at risk of depression symptoms if they felt stressed or were in poor health. Rates of elevated depression symptoms were higher during the postpartum period and were associated with adverse social and relationship factors. Identifying fathers most at risk of depressive symptoms and when best to target interventions (antenatal or postnatal) may be beneficial to men and their families.

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