Childbirth can depress fathers as well

LOS ANGELES -- They might relish becoming parents, but they can also be unprepared for the infant in their lives. They're sleep-deprived, confused and irritable. They're the fathers.

Discussions of the connection between mental health and childbirth have long focused on women, but a sizable portion of men experience prenatal and postpartum depression too, according to research released Tuesday.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 10.4 percent of men experienced serious depression between their partner's first trimester and one year after childbirth, more than double the depression rate for men in general.

"It's viewed as a disorder of motherhood. It's not viewed by health professionals and the public as a problem in fathers," said James F. Paulson, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.

Paulson analyzed the findings of 43 studies involving 28,004 participants from the United States, China, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and several other developed nations.

The most vulnerable period for depression in men was three to six months postpartum, he found, with one-quarter of the men who experienced depression afflicted during that time.

Fourteen to 23 percent of women experience depression during pregnancy, and 5 to 25 percent have postpartum depression, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.