Having a baby could cause men with a history of depression to relapse, a new British study suggests. Researchers from University College London (UCL) analyzed the medical records of 90,000 men who had had children in the previous year and compared them with those who had not become fathers.
Men who had not taken antidepressants before having a child were no more likely than men without children to need treatment.
However, they found that new parents who had a recent history of antidepressant use were more than 30 times more likely to be prescribed within 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 have continued the treatment they were already on, but others did not have a recent prescription and may have suffered a relapse of depression.”
‘It could be that they are simply more aware of the symptoms and sought treatment: we looked at the use of antidepressant treatment and not the diagnosis. What we saw is that [paternal post-natal depression] it’s not a risk unless you’re prone to depression. But having a child can be a trigger for some men.
Having a baby could cause men with a history of depression to relapse, a new British study suggests (file 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 antidepressant medications in men after having a child.
Of the 3,840 parents who received antidepressant treatment within a year of the child’s birth, 2,552, approximately 66.5 percent, received additional antidepressant treatment in the year after their child’s birth.
In addition, of the 1,206 parents who had taken antidepressants one to two years before the child’s birth, 175, or about 14 percent, received further antidepressant treatment in the year after their child’s birth.
Of the 85,690 men with no history of antidepressant use, only 1,712 (2 percent) were prescribed it in the year after their child was born. In light of the findings, the authors suggest that it might be beneficial to have a mental health check-up with your GP in the first year after having a child.
Lead researcher, PhD candidate Holly Smith, said: “The relationship between depression and parenthood is complex, but we found that prior antidepressant treatment is a key determinant associated with antidepressant use in the year after having a child.”
This may be because men are continuing the treatment they had before having a child, or these men may be more susceptible to feelings of depression again, and the challenges of having a new child may exacerbate this.
‘After the birth of a child, attention normally turns to the health of the mother and the baby. However, we must ensure that new parents also receive the care they need by improving research on new parents and how to engage with them about their mental health.”
Postpartum depression affects one in ten new mothers, according to NHS data, and just as many suffer problems during pregnancy.
One study, which involved reviewing 20,000 medical records, suggested that a similar proportion of men experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy and in the first year of becoming fathers. Approximately 22 million antidepressant prescriptions were delivered to around 6.6 million patients between October and December 2022, according to the latest NHS data.
Postpartum depression affects one in ten new mothers, according to NHS data, and as many suffer problems during pregnancy (file photo)
Around one in six adults suffer from moderate to severe depression, an increase from one in ten before the Covid pandemic. Research from the National Office for Government Statistics suggests the problem was even more common in people in financial difficulty, facing long-term health problems and disability, or caring for someone who is.
Young adults ages 16 to 29 were also most at risk, with more than a quarter suffering from mental health problems. Women, overall, are more likely (19 percent) than men (14 percent) to report experiencing some form of depression.
Along with prior antidepressant use, the UCL researchers found that social deprivation was also a key factor in whether new parents were prescribed antidepressants.
Parents living in the most deprived areas had an 18 percent increased risk of receiving an antidepressant prescription compared to parents living in the least deprived areas.