Image taken by Mayte Torres via Getty Images
Postpartum depression is also apparent in the father, but the problem remains poorly understood and may go unnoticed, a new British study warns.
Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University report in the Journal of Mental Health that only 76% of the approximately 400 participants in their research realized that something was wrong with their father after reading their symptoms compared to 97% for their mother.
Even more dramatically, 90% of respondents acknowledged that the mother suffered from postpartum depression, but only 46% of them came to this conclusion in the parent's case. One hundred of the participants felt that the man was simply tired, compared with a mere 0.5% for the woman.
The problem is, however, more widespread than we think. "About 10 percent of parents will have depression before the baby turns one," said child psychiatrist Anabel Carmel, who will soon join the CHU Sainte-Justine team. But when the mother has postpartum depression, the risk of the father increases by 50%, according to some studies. "
It may well be, however, that these 10% are just the tip of the iceberg: "In medicine … it is clear that we are getting what we are looking for," Dr. Carmel said. Dad's postpartum depression is something we are beginning to recognize, which is becoming more and more topical, but it is not necessarily a recognized phenomenon for which we do a common sense examination. ".
Best known in women
The mother will receive care throughout the pregnancy and therefore will benefit from a small follow-up by default on this subject. Several questions will be asked about her mental health, as obstetrical teams are well aware of the problem of postpartum depression in women. Not the same for dad.
"In the studies, many parents mention that their presence is sometimes overlooked when they are in consultation, or we will not ask questions about the parent as such, so it's easy to make a mistake," says Dr. Carmel: "The father and mother will experience the transition for paternity in a very different way.
The mother grew up with the baby and saw her body transform. For the father, the transition is much less concrete. He will have to forge a new identity and take on a new male role, with more or less time to prepare and more or less experience to do so.
"Sometimes parents can be very helpless in this transition, which may even be traumatic when you think of complicated pregnancy and complicated births," Dr. Carmel said. They may be confronted with their helplessness, their ignorance, they have the misfortune to communicate their experience to the team (…) or even to the partner. It really transforms their lives at the level of the couple, on the personal level, at the professional level, and expectations and reality are not always fulfilled. "
The basic symptoms of postpartum depression in the father – such as lack of motivation or pleasure – may be similar to those of the mother, but in the father, warns Dr. Carmel, there may also be particular expressions. which will not necessarily be recognized as manifestations of depression.
"In studies, we see that many parents express fatigue, a lot of irritability, anger … There is a greater risk of using alcohol and drugs. There may also be some emotional avoidance for the father," she said.
The first few months with a baby are often not easy and are often marked by lack of sleep and too much stress, and we should be aware of this, she added. "Another important message is to value Dad's unique role and not ignore him when he is present," he said.