10% of new fathers experience depression, study finds




Posted on May 18, 2010 at 2:13 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

From the moment you find out you're having a baby... through the growing pains of pregnancy ... childbirth ... to those blurry, sleepless months of having a newborn -- becoming a parent can be a roller coaster.

Many dads find the ride thrilling -- until, according to Dr. Scott Bea of the Cleveland Clinic, "you're often exhausted, have not given up other responsibilities and your sex life has gone down the tubes."

It's the harsh reality of becoming a father. And for some -- the change can lead to a condition usually associated with new moms: post-partum depression.

"For a lot of fathers, it's a completely new ball game. You can't imagine how it changes your life," says Dr. Bea.

A new study finds about 10% of fathers experience depression some time while their partners are pregnant, or after the baby is born. Depression among men in the general population is less than 5%.

Most depressed dads feel it most not during the honeymoon period immediately after the baby is born... but about 3 to 6 months later.

"First of all, it's very labor intensive. Secondly, you're decentralized in the family. You're no longer the apple of your wife's eye - somebody has displaced you," says Dr. Bea.

But even women who go through this often don't feel comfortable talking about it. Among men, the subject can be taboo.

"Men are not used to talking about it at all. That's one of the things that puts us at greater risk is we don't have a language to describe depression and so we sometimes fall through the cracks," says Dr. Bea.

Experts say professional help -- even a few nights out without the little one -- can do a world of good -- and allow dads to get back on track.