Paternal postpartum depression occurs among 10 percent of men between the first trimester and up to one year postpartum. When a pregnant woman or new mother develops psychiatric problems, her male partner is at higher risk of developing mental health problems: there is a 24 to 50 per cent increased risk of depression and a 10 to 17 per cent increased risk of anxiety. Expectant and new fathers with a psychiatric history are also at increased risk of developing mental health problems. Coping with role transitions, relationship transitions and the potential career and financial stress of having a child may contribute to risk.
The negative effects of untreated psychiatric disorders in expectant and new fathers on the individual and the family, and on child development, are similar to those of untreated disorders in pregnant and new mothers. Men may not show typical DSM-5 criteria for depression; instead, they may experience significant anger, aggression and addiction to express and cope with distress.
You can support new fathers by asking them about their experience of becoming a parent, screening with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, educating them about perinatal mental health problems, and assessing and treating psychiatric symptoms. Some evidence also points to the value of asking new mothers about their partners’ mental health, or even completing the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale about their partner, because the new mother may play a pivotal role in both identifying illness and encouraging treatment.