Men with a history of depression may relapse after having children, a new British study has found. Researchers at University College London (UCL) analyzed the medical records of 90,000 men who had fathered a child in the previous year and compared them with those who had not.
Men who did not take antidepressants before conception were no more likely to need treatment than men who did not.
But they found that new fathers with a recent history of antidepressant use were 30 times more likely to be prescribed them in the first year after having a child.
Study author Irene Petersen, professor of epidemiology and health informatics at UCL, said: ‘Some of these men will continue the treatment they were already on but others did not have a recent prescription and may relapse into depression.
‘It could be that they were more aware of the symptoms and sought treatment – we saw use of antidepressant treatment, not diagnosis. This is what we saw [paternal post-natal depression] Not a risk if you are not prone to depression. But having children can be a trigger for some men.’
Having a baby can lead to relapse in men with a history of depression, a new British study suggests (stock photo)
It is well known that a history of mental illness can dramatically increase the risk of depression in women during pregnancy and after childbirth. But this is one of the first studies to look at the use of antidepressants among men after having children.
Of the 3,840 fathers who received antidepressant treatment within a year of their child’s birth, 2,552 — about 66.5 percent — received further antidepressant treatment in the year after their child was born.
Also, of the 1,206 fathers who took antidepressants within one to two years of their child’s birth, 175 — or about 14 percent — took more antidepressant treatment in the year after their child was born.
Of the 85,690 men who had no history of antidepressant use, only 1,712 (two percent) were prescribed them in the year after their child was born. In light of the findings, the authors suggest that a mental health check-up with their GP in the first year after having children may be beneficial.
Lead researcher, PhD candidate, Holly Smith, said: ‘The relationship between depression and parenthood is complex but we found that previous antidepressant treatment was a key determinant associated with antidepressant use in the year after having a child.
‘This may be because men are continuing their treatment before having children, or these men may be more susceptible to feelings of depression again and the challenges of having a new child may exacerbate it.
‘After a baby is born, attention is usually focused on the health of mother and baby. However, we need to make sure new dads get the care they need, improve research on new dads and how to engage with them about their mental health.’
According to NHS data, postnatal depression affects one in ten new mums and many women suffer during pregnancy.
One study, which involved looking at 20,000 medical records, suggested similar proportions of men suffered from depression during their partner’s pregnancy and in the first year of parenthood. According to the latest NHS data, around 22 million antidepressant prescriptions were handed out to an estimated 6.6 million patients between October and December 2022.
According to NHS figures postnatal depression affects one in ten new mums and many women suffer during pregnancy (stock photo)
One in six adults suffer from moderate to severe depression – up from one in ten before the Covid pandemic. Research by the Government’s Office for National Statistics revealed that financial problems were more common among those experiencing long-term ill health and disability – or caring for someone who did.
Young adults aged 16 to 29 were also at higher risk, with more than a quarter suffering from mental illness. Women, overall, are more likely (19 percent) than men (14 percent) to report experiencing some form of depression.
As well as previous antidepressant use, UCL researchers found that social deprivation was also a key factor in whether new fathers were prescribed antidepressants.
Fathers living in the most deprived areas had an 18 per cent higher risk of receiving an antidepressant prescription than fathers living in the least deprived areas.
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