If postpartum depression (PPD) in mothers is beginning to be well documented, the same pathology in fathers is still a taboo and is the subject of very few studies. However, it is a real problem as it is estimated that paternal PPD affects 8% to 10% of fathers worldwide in the year following the birth of their child.
Like any other depression, it is a multifactorial disease. But according to Dr. Sarah Tebeka, psychiatrist at the Louis-Mourier hospital (Assistance publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, AP-HP), in Colombes (Hauts-de-Seine), and researcher, “We can draw a parallel between fathers and mothers: insecurity, psychiatric history, a difficult pregnancy, social upheaval or lack of sleep that occurs with the arrival of a baby are all factors that can trigger PPD in both parents.”.
But in fathers, PPD can manifest differently. Where a mother will mostly express sadness, a father may show anger and irritability. Sarah Tebeka adds: “They also develop behavior in the form of alcoholism or consumption of illegal products.”
This pathology should not be taken lightly. In fact, according to the psychiatrist, “Fathers, like mothers, play a central role in the child’s development, both positively and negatively”. A father’s depression can also affect a mother’s mental health. It is therefore important to take measures that reduce the risk of paternal PPD.
A study by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) led by researcher Maria Melchior and published on Wednesday 4 January has finally shown the positive effects of paternity leave on fathers’ mental health.
The researchers based themselves on a sample from the Elfe cohort (18,000 children born in 2011 in France and their parents) and looked at the effects of this leave, which lasted for fourteen days at the time, on the occurrence of PPD in both parents two months after the birth of the child. The study shows that 5.7% of fathers who did not take this leave developed PPD, whereas only 4.5% of those who chose to stop developed this pathology.
Even fathers who planned parental leave but did not take it in the first two months (they have six months to take it) appear to benefit from such a prospect, with 4.8% of them suffering from ‘depression’ .
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