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Study: Baby blues can affect both parents at the same time

Symptoms include excessive anxiety, not being able to stop crying and feelings of hopelessness.

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Despaired married couple is on bed
A US study found around one in 20 dads showed symptoms in the first 15 months after birth - virtually the same rate as moms.
(True Touch Lifestyle via Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

The baby blues can affect both parents at the same time, according to new research.

Nearly one in 30 couples suffer from the phenomenon. It may last over a year - endangering them and their child.

It happens after more than three percent (3.18%) of births. Most cases are known as late postnatal depression, occurring three to 12 months later.

But around one in 50 cases start before the baby arrives (1.72%) - or up to 12 weeks afterward (2.37%). They often continue well into infanthood.

Lead author Dr. Kara Smythe, of University College London, explained: "Perinatal depression can follow a protracted course.

"Most men and women who have depressive symptoms at four and eight weeks postpartum continue to have symptoms at six months postpartum, and some develop symptoms in the later postnatal period."

For fathers, the main factors associated with mood disorders were lower levels of education, unemployment, fewer friends and marital distress.

Symptoms include excessive anxiety, not being able to stop crying and feelings of hopelessness.

Some struggle to find enjoyment in life, have difficulty concentrating and lose their appetite.

Experts warn this can have a negative effect on a child’s development and behavior - and more should be done to identify those who are suffering.

Low social support also increased the risk for mothers along with domestic violence or a stressful childhood.

Dr. Smythe, added: "In high-income countries such as the US and the UK, more than 80 percent of women and more than 70 percent of men become parents.

Cute baby blonde girl in vintage dress stands by the window of the house
Parents' baby blues can have a negative effect on a child’s development and behavior, experts warn. (Maples Images via Shutterstock)

"Each year, more than 650,000 babies are born. Therefore, with prevalence rates of two percent to three percent for depression in both members of the parental dyad, the potential burden is considerable.

"Mood disorders in one parent may impact the other parent, and there is evidence that paternal depression leads to increased symptoms of depression in mothers during pregnancy and in the first six postpartum months.

"Parental perinatal mood disorders are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, impaired bonding with the newborn, and behavioral problems in their children.

"Co-occurrence of mood disorders in both parents may amplify these negative outcomes; however, prevalence data are lacking.

"This information is necessary to inform healthcare priority-setting and facilitate a move toward a family-centered model of care that better serves mother and fathers as they transition to parenthood."

The study in JAMA Network Open pooled data from 23 studies in 15 countries, including the UK, involving 29,286 couples across the last three decades.

A history of mood problems has been shown to raise the risk of mental illness in mothers and fathers.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that health provers offer new mothers a postnatal check-up six to eight weeks after giving birth.

Dr. Smythe and colleagues recently demonstrated up to 40 percent do not get one. For men, there is no such service at all.

They called for the current model to be reassessed - and also focus on social determinants and relationships between parents to identify those at risk.

The analysis found one in nine (11%) of mothers experience maternal depression during pregnancy and one in eight (13%) after the baby is born.

Another study of 21 countries estimated one in ten (9.76%) fathers experienced depression during pregnancy and almost one in nine (8.75%) in the first year after birth.

The rate of paternal anxiety also rises threefold when the mother is depressed. Mood disorders progress throughout pregnancy and the months following birth.

Women and men are three and nine times more likely, respectively, to develop postnatal depression if they have experienced depression in the months prior to the child being born.

Dr. Smythe said: "Future research should determine the longitudinal course of perinatal mood disorders coexisting in both parents, which may change clinical practice.

"The focus on postnatal depression usually centers on the first 12 weeks post-partum, reflected in practice guidelines.

"However, our findings suggest that clinical attention to perinatal mood disorders may need to extend beyond the early postnatal period."

The findings add to growing evidence that post-natal depression affects the genders equally.

A study of 9,500 new parents in the US found around one in 20 dads showed symptoms in the first 15 months after birth - virtually the same rate as moms.

Added Dr. Smythe: "These findings suggest health care workers caring for new or
expectant parents should be aware that both parents can concurrently experience perinatal mood disorders, with consequences for their health and well-being as well as that of their infant."

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