Post­par­tum de­pres­sion in dads

Sunday Trust - - NEWS | HEALTH - Source: sci­encedaily.com

Post­par­tum de­pres­sion is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with moth­ers, but a new study shows that fa­thers face a higher risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it them­selves if their testos­terone lev­els drop nine months af­ter their chil­dren are born.

The same study re­vealed that a fa­ther’s low testos­terone may also af­fect his part­ner -- but in an un­ex­pect­edly pos­i­tive way. Women whose part­ners had lower lev­els of testos­terone post­par­tum re­ported fewer symp­toms of de­pres­sion them­selves nine and 15 months af­ter birth.

High testos­terone lev­els had the op­po­site ef­fect. Fa­thers whose lev­els spiked faced a greater risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing stress due to par­ent­ing and a greater risk of act­ing hos­tile­such as show­ing emo­tional, ver­bal or phys­i­cal ag­gres­sion -- to­ward their part­ners.

The study was pub­lished in the jour­nal Hor­mones and Be­hav­ior on Sept. 1. The find­ings sup­port prior stud­ies that show men have bi­o­log­i­cal re­sponses to fa­ther­hood, said Darby Saxbe, the study’s lead au­thor and an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at USC Dorn­sife Col­lege of Let­ters, Arts and Sciences.

“We of­ten think of moth­er­hood as bi­o­log­i­cally driven be­cause many moth­ers have bi­o­log­i­cal con­nec­tions to their ba­bies through breast­feed­ing and preg­nancy.” Saxbe said. “We don’t usu­ally think of fa­ther­hood in the same bi­o­log­i­cal terms. We are still fig­ur­ing out the bi­ol­ogy of what makes dads tick.

“We know that fa­thers con­trib­ute a lot to child-rear­ing and that on the whole, kids do bet­ter if they are raised in house­holds with a fa­ther present,” she added. “So, it is im­por­tant to fig­ure out how to sup­port fa­thers and what fac­tors ex­plain why some fa­thers are very in­volved in rais­ing their chil­dren while some are ab­sent.”

Saxbe worked with a team of re­searchers from USC, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Los An­ge­les and North­west­ern Univer­sity.

A snap­shot of post­par­tum de­pres­sion

For the study, the re­searchers ex­am­ined data from 149 cou­ples pa­ter­nal in the Com­mu­nity Child Health Re­search Net­work. The study by the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Child Health and Hu­man Devel­op­ment in­volves sites across the coun­try, but the data for this study came from Lake County, Illi­nois, north of Chicago.

Moth­ers in the study were 18 to 40 years old; African-Amer­i­can, white or Latina; and low-in­come. They were re­cruited when they gave birth to their first, sec­ond or third child. Moth­ers could in­vite the baby’s fa­ther to par­tic­i­pate in the study as well. Of the fa­thers who par­tic­i­pated and pro­vided testos­terone data, 95 per­cent were liv­ing with the moth­ers.

In­ter­view­ers vis­ited cou­ples three times in the first two years af­ter birth: around two months af­ter the child was born, about nine months af­ter birth and about 15 months af­ter birth.

At the nine-month visit, re­searchers gave the fa­thers saliva sam­ple kits. Dads took sam­ples three times a day -- morn­ing, mid­day and evening -- to mon­i­tor their testos­terone lev­els.

Par­tic­i­pants re­sponded to ques­tions about de­pres­sive symp­toms based on a widely-used mea­sure, the Ed­in­burgh Post­na­tal De­pres­sion. They also re­ported on their re­la­tion­ship sat­is­fac­tion, par­ent­ing stress and whether they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing any in­ti­mate part­ner ag­gres­sion. Higher scores on those mea­sures sig­naled greater de­pres­sion, more stress, more dis­sat­is­fac­tion and greater ag­gres­sion.

Rel­a­tively few par­tic­i­pants -fa­thers and moth­ers -- were iden­ti­fied as clin­i­cally de­pressed, which is typ­i­cal of a com­mu­nity sam­ple that re­flects the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. In­stead of us­ing clin­i­cal di­ag­noses, the re­searchers looked at the num­ber of de­pres­sive symp­toms en­dorsed by each par­tic­i­pant.

Men’s testos­terone lev­els were linked with both their own and their part­ners’ de­pres­sive symp­toms -- but in op­pos­ing di­rec­tions for men and for women.

For ex­am­ple, lower testos­terone was as­so­ci­ated with more symp­toms in dads, but fewer symp­toms in moms. The link be­tween their part­ners’ testos­terone lev­els and their own de­pres­sion was me­di­ated by re­la­tion­ship sat­is­fac­tion. If they were paired with lower-testos­terone part­ners, women re­ported greater sat­is­fac­tion with their re­la­tion­ship, which in turn helped re­duce their de­pres­sive symp­toms.

“It may be that the fa­thers with lower testos­terone were spend­ing more time car­ing for the baby or that they had hor­mone pro­files that were more synced up with moth­ers,” she said. “For moth­ers, we know that so­cial sup­port buf­fers the risk of post­par­tum de­pres­sion.”

Fa­thers with higher testos­terone lev­els re­ported more par­ent­ing stress, and their part­ners re­ported more re­la­tion­ship ag­gres­sion.

To mea­sure par­ent­ing stress, par­ents were asked how strongly they re­lated to a set of 36 items from the Par­ent­ing Stress In­dex-Short Form. They re­sponded to state­ments such as “I feel trapped by my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as a par­ent” and “My child makes more de­mands on me than most chil­dren.” A high num­ber of “yes” re­sponses sig­naled stress.

Re­la­tion­ship sat­is­fac­tion ques­tions were based on an­other widely-used tool, the Dyadic Ad­just­ment Scale. Par­ents re­sponded to 32 items in­quir­ing about their re­la­tion­ship sat­is­fac­tion, in­clud­ing areas of dis­agree­ment or their de­gree of close­ness and af­fec­tion. Higher scores sig­naled greater dis­sat­is­fac­tion.

Moth­ers also an­swered ques­tions from an­other sci­en­tific ques­tion­naire, the HITS (Hurts, In­sults, and Threats Scale), re­port­ing whether they had ex­pe­ri­enced any phys­i­cal hurt, in­sult, threats and scream­ing over the past year. They also were asked if their part­ners re­stricted ac­tiv­i­ties such as spend­ing money, vis­it­ing fam­ily or friends or go­ing places that they needed to go.

“Those are risk fac­tors that can con­trib­ute to de­pres­sion over the long term,” Saxbe said.

Treat­ing fa­thers post­par­tum de­pres­sion

Al­though doc­tors may try to ad­dress post­par­tum de­pres­sion in fa­thers by pro­vid­ing testos­terone supplements, Saxbe said that the study’s find­ings in­di­cate a boost could worsen the fam­ily’s stress.

“One take-away from this study is that sup­ple­ment­ing is not a good idea for treat­ing fa­thers with post­par­tum de­pres­sion,” she said. “Low testos­terone dur­ing the post­par­tum pe­riod may be a nor­mal and nat­u­ral adap­ta­tion to par­ent­hood.”

She said stud­ies have shown that phys­i­cal fit­ness and ad­e­quate sleep can im­prove both mood and help bal­ance hor­mone lev­els.

In ad­di­tion, both moth­ers and fa­thers should be aware of the signs of post­par­tum de­pres­sion and be will­ing to seek sup­port and care, Saxbe said. Talk ther­apy can help dads -- or moms -- gain in­sight into their emo­tions and find bet­ter strate­gies for man­ag­ing their moods.

“We tend to think of post­par­tum de­pres­sion as a mom thing,” Saxbe said. “It’s not. It’s a real con­di­tion that might be linked to hor­mones and bi­ol­ogy.” with

(PHOTO/ISTOCK)

Hor­mones lev­els in new dads af­fect mood and re­la­tion­ships, re­searchers say.

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