Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced that pediatricians should begin screening new moms for postpartum depression. That's great news, since new moms tend to put their own needs aside and often don't check in with their own doctors if something is amiss. But the AAP should take their new guideline a step further and screen new dads, too.
A 2006 study found that while 14 percent of new moms showed signs of postpartum depression, new dads weren't far behind, with 10 percent of them also showing telltale signs of depression after the baby arrived. Being a new dad is tough: Your family life has radically changed, there's a tiny little person who's entirely dependent upon you and you're often sent back to the office after little more than a week (if any) of paternity leave -- hardly adequate time to bond with the new addition or adjust to the new family set-up.
The AAP released its new guidelines not just for the sake of new moms, but for their babies, too. According to Slate.com, the babies of depressed moms are at risk for developmental delays, cognitive and language difficulties and social and emotional problems. The children of depressed fathers don't fare so well, either. A dad who has got the blues is less likely to sing to his little tyke, read to him or tell him stories. A look at those kids two years later found that they scored lower on vocabulary tests.
So, what gives? Why do fathers get totally ignored when it comes to the baby blues? No, they don't have to endure childbirth, but their lives have radically changed, too. The pressure of being a new parent is enormous -- and the mood of a parent is enormously important.
As dads become more involved in the lives of their children, it's crucial that healthcare providers recognize that they are also vulnerable to the tolls that parenthood can take on mental health. It wouldn't take much for a pediatrician to check in on pop when he comes in for the two-month well visit. And the benefits to a new family -- spotting depression in a parent early on -- would be good for everyone.