Mothers and Fathers at Risk for Depression After Birth of Child

Summary
There have been concerns regarding the adverse effects of parental depression on children. This study was undertaken to explore the occurrence of, and link between, parental depression and adverse effects on children less than 12 years of age. Results showed that depression is most common among parents in the child’s first year of life and among those who had depression before. Also, younger parents and those from poorer areas are at a higher risk. Authors conclude, “There is a need for appropriate recognition and management of parental depression in primary care.”

Introduction
Parental depression is associated with poor behavioral, developmental and cognitive outcomes in children. Numerous studies have extensively explored the effects of maternal depression on the offspring. However, there have been no concrete studies that explore the occurrences of depression in the father and its effects on the child. This could be due to the difficulties in getting a large number of fathers to participate in research studies looking at parental depression. This study looked at the occurrences of parental depression as a whole and ways to identify these tendencies in primary care.

Methodology
•    The researchers looked at primary health care databases for over 350 general practices. This data was obtained from “The Health Improvement Network database” between the years 1993 and 2007.
•    The study identified 86,957 families with a father, mother and a child less than 12 years of age. They also detected depression among this population by counting the number of prescriptions containing antidepressant medications.
•    The age of the child, parents’ age at birth of the child and the area of where the family lived was also delineated for all participant families.
•    Armed with this data, researchers detected the rates of occurrence of depression in either or both parents.

Results
•    Depression was noted in 7.5 mothers per 100 people and in 2.69 fathers per 100 people. Results showed that depression rates rose in the first year following the baby’s birth with 13.93 mothers per 100 people and 3.56 fathers per 100 people reporting depression.
•    At least 4 percent of the children had both parents depressed in the course of one year. Median duration of antidepressant intake was 105 days among the participating parents.
•    Overall in the first 12 years of the child’s life 39 percent of mothers and 21 percent of fathers had at least one episode of clinical depression. Those with a previous history of depression before the birth of the child, those who were young at childbirth and those who faced “social deprivation” suffered more frequently from depression.

Shortcomings
Authors agree that while considering family units with parents and the child, the man may not be the father of the child. Also, parents were considered to be depressed based on their health records and prescriptions rather than diagnosing each of them individually. Factors that affect mood, including a partner’s ailment or depression, quality of marriage and other life factors, were not considered. They recommend further studies that follow-up with families over a long time to assess occurrence and effects of parental depression on children.

Conclusion
This is the “first study assessing the incidence of depression in both parents recorded in general practice across the course of their offspring’s childhood.” This study adds to the knowledge that both mothers and fathers are at risk of depression, especially right after the birth of a child. At present, the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has guidelines in place that allow depression to be detected in mothers after the birth of a child. However, according to this study fathers may also be at risk. Clinicians must be made aware of these risks to both parents in order to detect and treat depression.

For More Information:
Incidence of Maternal and Paternal Depression in Primary Care
Publication Journal: Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, September 2010
By Shreya Davé, PhD; Irene Petersen, PhD; University College London, UK

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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