Examining the need for postpartum depression screening in fathers

Evaluating screening dads for postpartum depression in a midwest clinic.

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New research at the University of Illinois Chicago shows that dads can experience postpartum depression, too. A study found that about 30% of fathers screened positive for this condition, using the same tool used for moms. This suggests that checking in with new dads about their mental health is essential. Taking care of fathers’ well-being could help improve the overall health of both parents and contribute to better maternal health.

Lead author Dr. Sam Wainwright said, “Many dads are stressed. They’re scared. They’re struggling with balancing work and parental and partner responsibilities. Men are often not doing well, but no one asks them about it.”  

Talking to new dads about their mental health is even more critical because it can affect their partners.

Suppose a woman is at risk of postpartum depression and her partner is depressed. In that case, she’s much more likely to experience postpartum depression.

Previous studies have suggested that around 8% to 13% of new fathers go through postpartum depression. In this study, the rate might have been higher because nearly 90% of the participants were from racial or ethnic groups that often face challenges related to racism and social factors that can worsen mental health.

The study occurred at UI Health’s Two-Generation Clinic, which started in 2020. This clinic recognizes that new moms, especially those with fewer resources and from minority backgrounds, often put their children’s health first but don’t prioritize their own. So, the clinic offers moms healthcare at the same time as their children’s visits to make it easier for them.

Before, dads often weren’t included in caring for their mental health. The clinic team started talking to dads to see how they were feeling. Many dads would say, “I’m stressed, but I don’t want my partner to know because I’m here to support her.” This study came from those conversations.

These talks also led to a more extensive research project where they want to learn more about dads’ experiences, especially their mental and physical health. They’re now talking to dads-to-be in the waiting area for moms having babies. During these talks, they also check dads for health issues like high blood pressure.

It’s often problematic for doctors to reach young men who don’t like going to the doctor. So, getting them when they become fathers is a significant chance to help them stay healthy. Some men in the postpartum depression study who didn’t have a regular doctor are now getting medical care from Dr. Wainwright, and others are asking for help with their mental health.

This research aims to figure out how to help men stay healthy so that their relationships and families are healthy. Dr. Wainwright wants to show them that caring for themselves is essential for their baby, partner, and themselves.

This research advocates for including fathers in discussions surrounding postpartum depression and the importance of their mental health. By recognizing fathers’ impact on their partners and families, healthcare providers can work towards healthier outcomes for everyone involved.

Journal Reference:

  1. Wainwright, S., Caskey, R., Rodriguez, A. et al. Screening fathers for postpartum depression in a maternal-child health clinic: a program evaluation in a midwest urban academic medical center. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. DOI: 10.1186/s12884-023-05966-y.
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