Typically when a woman gets pregnant, the focus immediately shifts to her health as it relates to the health of her baby. It’s known that the physical and mental well-being of the mother weighs heavily on development during the prenatal stage and beyond. However, new Norwegian research has uncovered that the mental health of the father during the period of gestation may be just as important.
Researchers examined 32,000 children to determine the effects of fathers’ prenatal mental health on the mental health of their growing children. Results suggest that a father’s mental well-being may be a risk factor in determining future mental health problems in his offspring.
The survey unveiled a relationship between the mental health of the expectant fathers and the onset of mental health issues in their children. Even after adjusting for other influencing factors including the father’s age, use of substances such as alcohol and tobacco, physical problems, and the mother’s overall mental health, researchers still found a connection.
Weeks 17 and 18 were of particular concern. It was fathers who rated high for depression, anxiety, or mental distress during this time who had children that exhibited behavioral and emotional problems later at 3 years old. These children showed signs of anxiety and had difficulty getting along well with others.
James Paulson, associate psychology professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia who researches family depression says that depression in expectant fathers takes a similar toll as postpartum depression in woman. According to news presented by USA Today, over the last 10 years research has uncovered that postpartum depression in fathers presents similar risks to growing children as maternal postpartum depression.
Study results suggest that parents and doctors need not only pay attention to the mental health of the mother during pregnancy but also that of the father. Paulson stresses the importance of early detection and treatment in minimizing negative health impacts on children. Family Guidance Center, a community mental health center, offers mental health assessments during business hours daily. The team at Family Guidance Center can help you or a family member identify signs and symptoms of mental health problems early-on, as well as a treatment strategy, to maintain a healthy future.