Two pediatricians in the USA have called for universal screening for postpartum depression in fathers, as exists already for mothers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges the existence of parental postpartum depression but only recommends that pediatricians screen mothers during well-child visits. The guideline does include the suggestion to “consider” screening the partner at the 6-month well-child visit.
This approach has been challenged. Given the impact of paternal postpartum depression on family functioning, child health and child development, and given the strong correlation of depression in mothers and fathers, the two pediatriciansargue that addressing paternal depression should not be an optional extra.
If pediatric services start to find depression in fathers, they will need to develop referral services locally in order to respond to the problems detected.
The prevalence of paternal postpartum depression is between 2% and 25% according to different studies. Fathers tend to show different symptoms from mothers – more irritability and alcohol/substance abuse, for example. Fathers are less likely to seek help, something that more education could improve. There is currently no diagnostic tool specifically designed for fathers, so, while new tools are being developed(work in progress), the tools for mothers need to be used.
Walsh TB, Davies RN & Garfield C (2020), A call to action: Screening fathers for perinatal depression, Pediatrics 145.1
Header photo: Shawn Harquail. Creative Commons.