A UK study looking at data based on 89,000 couples found that one-third of mothers and about one-fifth of fathers get depressed at some point in the first twelve years of being a parent.
That doesn’t really surprise me. In fact, I’m a little amazed that as many as two thirds of mothers and four fifths of fathers don’t experience an episode of depression in that twelve year time period.
But there was another more intriguing aspect of this study: the risk for depression is greatest within the first year of parenthood.
Researchers found that 13.93 % of mothers and 3.56 % of fathers experienced depression during the first year of their child’s life. The report , put together by England’s Medical Research Council, will come out in the November 2010 issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
Authors of the report point to the stress of new parenthood as well as pregnant women temporarily going off anti-depressants as possible reasons for the high numbers early on. They also found that factors including a history of depression, being a younger parent (aged 15 to 24) and facing adversity put new parents at greater risk for depression.
It’s estimated that 1 in 8 mothers suffer postpartum depression, if not more. So the above numbers fit in with previous research. Other studies have revealed several additional risk factors for PPD, including– according to Postpartum Progress– severe morning sickness, childhood trauma or a history of abuse, a perfectionist personality, diabetes, and treatment for infertility.
Postpartum depression can occur anytime within the first 12 months and is not the same as the baby blues– a normal period of sadness or feeling overwhelmed that takes place days or weeks after the baby is born and then fades away. The first year with a newborn can be filled with so many emotions– mothers can be elated, euphoric, manic, tense and depressed all within a week There are so many variables including changes in hormones and how much sleep parents are getting. Men also experience hormonal– and life– changes that cause totally normal but sometimes intense mood fluctuations.
But there is also a more persistent depression that requires really good support and proper guidance to overcome. Read up here for more information about depression in the first twelve months postpartum. The authors of this study hope that their work will lead to more successful efforts in the screening for depression.