Thousands of new fathers are at risk of a form of postnatal depression, experts warned.
Doctors have long known mothers are prone to chronic anxiety and low mood, either during pregnancy or soon after giving birth. But men are also at risk, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Auckland in New Zealand say fathers-to-be should be assessed in the run up to the arrival of a new child. Their study, published in JAMA Psychiatry medical journal, found 2.3 percent of fathers were affected by depressive symptoms during their partner’s pregnancy and 4.3 percent suffered after the child was born.
If the figures hold true for Britain, more than 30 000 men may be suffering in silence each year. Women are more likely to suffer, with 11.5 percent of mothers having antenatal depression and eight percent postnatal depression.
Dr Lisa Underwood, research fellow at the University of Auckland, said: "Pregnancy and childbirth may be high risk periods for male depression. Maternal perinatal depression is linked to physiological changes, for example hormone fluctuations.
"Expectant and new fathers also experience biological and ecological stressors, including changes to brain circuits, structure and hormones that can increase their risk of depression symptoms."
The study tracked 3 523 men with an average age of 33 whose partner was in their third trimester until nine months after the birth of their child. Dr Underwood said there was no routine screening for fathers before or after the birth of their children, since they are not usually engaged in routine perinatal care.
She added: "It is important to recognise and treat symptoms among fathers early and the first step in doing that is arguably increasing awareness."
Abigail Wood of the National Childbirth Trust said: "Many new dads experience increased stress and anxiety before and after the birth of their baby. Dads tell us that mental health is something they worry about before and after the birth of their children.
"Our research found that one in three new fathers are concerned about their mental health. If any dads are worried, they should talk to their GP or a mental health specialist."