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Dads Should Be Screened for Postpartum Depression Too, Study Says

Researchers believe that given how connected a mothers’ and fathers’ physical and mental health is, addressing dad's health may be key to improving the US' maternal health crisis.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published October 19, 2023
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Image: Anna Kraynova | Shutterstock

The conversation around postpartum depression is becoming less stigmatized every day, but there’s still more work to do. Notably, a new study suggests that men are struggling with postpartum depression at alarming rates that largely remain undiagnosed and unaddressed.

A new pilot study at the University of Illinois Chicago is hoping to end the stigma attached with postpartum depression in men and suggests that men can and should be screened for the condition.

“A lot of dads are stressed. They’re scared. They’re struggling with balancing work and parental and partner responsibilities,” lead author Dr. Sam Wainwright said in a press release from the university. “Men are often not doing well, but no one is asking them about it.”

While small in size, a recent study of 24 dads found that 30 percent of those screened tested positive for postpartum depression on the same tool that is commonly used to screen moms. Scientists suspect that this alarming percentage could be due to a lack of support and hardly any paid paternity leave.

Twenty-one percent of Dads across the US have access to paid paternity leave, with the average length being just 17 days. With a short time to bond with baby and the overwhelming challenge of juggling work, parenthood and supporting their partners it’s not surprising that dads also struggle with postpartum depression.

Researchers hope that screening more dads for postpartum depression can identify those struggling earlier on so they can get the help they need to be their best for their family and beyond. “A woman at risk for postpartum depression is much more likely to get postpartum depression if she has a depressed partner,” noted Wainwright. “How can we show them [Dads] that it’s important to take care of yourself for the sake of your baby, for the sake of your partner and for your own sake?” he said.

Researchers believe that given the intertwined effects of mothers’ and fathers’ physical and mental health, addressing the health of fathers may be a powerful untapped tool in improving the nation’s ongoing maternal health crisis.

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