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Postpartum Depression Health Center

New Parents at Risk for Postpartum Depression

Study Shows Moms and Dads at Greatest Risk During First Year of Baby's Life
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Dads Get Postpartum Depression, Too continued...

There are many potential reasons for the increased risk of depression after having a child, he says.

For starters, "there are all of the changes that all new parents go through including redefining who you are as a person, redefining your relationship with your partner, sleep deprivation, and financial stress," he says. "All of these things can potentially affect mothers and fathers in significant ways."

The question now becomes what can be done about maternal and paternal depression.

"New or expecting parents should become aware of depression as a risk," he says.

It affects the whole family -- including the children.

Recognize and Treat Postpartum Depression

"Depression in moms and dads has long-term negative effects on childhood development and mental health," he says.

But it doesn't have to play out this way."If it is recognized, depression is entirely treatable in both men and women," Paulson says.

"There is no hard line between problems with mood and becoming depressed, it's a creeping situation," he says.

"We look for significant depressed mood such as feeling in the dumps or particularly irritable for the past week or two," Paulson says.  "It is not just low mood, but also a loss of interest in things that were previously very pleasurable."

Another factor is how much any of these symptoms get in the way of day-to-day life, he says. "If you have difficulty getting out of bed and engaging with your child and the world, that is a more alarming sign."

Ian Cook, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior of the University of California, Los Angeles, agrees.

"Screening for depression should apply to new dads as well as new moms," he tells WebMD.  "Doctors need to ask new parents whether they have felt sad, depressed, or blue in the past few weeks, or if they have lost interest in things that usually bring pleasure."

"If the answer is yes to any of these questions, a more extensive follow-up is needed," he says. "There is clearly evidence that we should ask these question of new dads and get them treated so they can be the best possible parents."

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