Parental Depression Within first Year of Childbirth
Researchers in the UK discovered that over 30 percent of mothers and about 20 percent of fathers experience depression within the first year after birth.
“Depression in parents is associated with adverse behavioral, developmental and cognitive outcomes in their children,” the authors write. “While the maternal depression and child outcome literature is well established, there are fewer studies on paternal depression. There is evidence that paternal depression is not uncommon, with rates higher than those in the general adult male population; however, a wide range of prevalence rates for paternal depression have been reported.”
Shreya Davé, Ph.D., M.Sc., B.Sc., of the Medical Research Council, London, England, and colleagues examined parental depression in 86,957 families in the U.K. primary care facilities between 1993 and 2007.
The depression rate was 7.53 per 100 mothers per year and 2.69 per 100 fathers per year. The highest rates were observed in the first year after the birth of a child. “These high rates of depression in the postpartum period are not surprising owing to the potential stress associated with the birth of a baby, e.g., poor parental sleep, the demands made on parents and the change in their responsibilities, and the pressure this could place on the couple’s relationship,” the authors write.
Antidepressant user after childbirth possibly linked to parental depression.
“The high rate of parental depression in the first year after delivery may also be partly due to a resumption of antidepressant use following a break during pregnancy and breastfeeding.”
Depression involves feelings of sadness lasting for two weeks or longer, often accompanied by a loss of interest in life, hopelessness, and decreased energy. Such distressing feelings can affect one's ability to perform the usual tasks and activities of daily living.
Researchers found that parents who had some sort of history of depression and were younger (ages 15 to 24, compared with 25 and older) when their child was born and who were more socially deprived were more likely to develop depression.
“There is a well-established link between depression and social and economic deprivation both in the general population and among parents. This finding may reflect the stresses of poverty, unemployment, low employment grade and lower social support among people of lower socioeconomic status,” the authors write. In addition, “younger parents may be less prepared for parenthood with more unplanned pregnancies and may be less able to deal with the stresses of parenthood compared with older parents.”
The authors note that future research should examine other factors associated with parental depression within first year of childbirth and should look at the couple’s relationship quality and stressful life events.