Expectant dads get depressed too

Montreal – Transition to parenthood can be a difficult life event. It can have an impact on both parents and on the long-term development of the child. While mother’s "baby blues" have been widely investigated, little research has been conducted on antenatal paternal depression. A team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) sheds light on fathers’ mental health by releasing the first study to report the prevalence of antenatal depression symptoms among Canadian men. The findings, which have been published in The American Journal of Men's Health, show that a significant number of first-time expectant fathers experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy. This may have important clinical implications for depression screening and early prevention efforts in expectant fathers.

“The mental health of men remains a neglected area of research and one that is not adequately addressed during the transition to parenthood,” says senior author, Dr. Deborah Da Costa, researcher in the Division of clinical epidemiology at the RI-MUHC and associate professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University. “Highlighting these findings in Canada increases awareness in expectant parents, new parents, and importantly in healthcare providers who are in contact with expectant couples during prenatal appointments.”

The research team recruited 622 men in Quebec over a period of one and half years. Expectant fathers completed online questionnaires measuring various factors such as mood, physical activity, sleep quality, social support, marital adjustment, financial stress, and demographics, during their partner’s third semester. Researchers found that 13.3 per cent of expectant fathers experienced elevated levels of depressive symptoms during their partner’s pregnancy.

Most of the factors associated with depression in men were identified to be modifiable, meaning that tools are available to help cope with these difficulties. For the first time in this area, researchers also looked at sleep in relation to depression and found that men who were having sleep difficulties were more at risk of experiencing depression.

“These are important signals because some of these factors may worsen in postpartum; certainly sleep will be compromised in the first years,” explains Dr. Da Costa who is also a researcher from the Experimental Therapeutics and Metabolism Program at the RI-MUHC. “We know that antenatal depression is the strongest predictor for postnatal depression. So teaching fathers and screening for this early on, can be beneficial in terms of decreasing the risk or the continuation of depression postpartum.”

This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Dr. Deborah Da Costa, principal investigator

The article Dads Get Sad Too: Depressive Symptoms and Associated Factors in Expectant First-Time Fathers was co-authored by Deborah Da Costa,  Kaberi Dasgupta, Maida Sewitch, Ilka Lowenstey , Rani Cruz and Kelly Hennegan from the McGill University Health Centre and McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; and by Samir Khalifé and Phyllis Zelkowitz from the Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

About The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and healthcare research centre. The Institute, which is affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, is the research arm of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) - an academic health centre located in Montreal, Canada, that has a mandate to focus on complex care within its community. The RI-MUHC supports over 500 researchers, and over 1,200 students, devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental, clinical and health outcomes research at the Glen and the Montreal General Hospital sites of the MUHC. Our research facilities offer a dynamic multidisciplinary environment that fosters collaboration and leverages discovery aimed at improving the health of individual patients across their lifespan. Over 1,600 clinical research projects and trials are conducted within the organization annually. The RI-MUHC is supported in part by the Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS). www.rimuhc.ca




Media contact: 

Julie Robert       
Public Affairs & Strategic planning
McGill University Health Centre
[email protected]
514 934-1934 ext. 71381