by Eilish O'Regan
The Irish Independent, Saturday 21st February 2015
AROUND one in eight new fathers may suffer symptoms of postnatal depression in the first year of their baby's life, a new study has shown.
The findings, which emerged from a study of 100 fathers in Cork, found men who suffer from the condition are underdiagnosed and undertreated.
"It shows the need for more awareness of the mental health of fathers in the postnatal period," researcher Lloyd Philpott of University College, Cork, told the annual Nursing and Midwifery Conference in the Royal College of Surgeons yesterday.
He said a mother's postnatal depression can manifest itself in low mood, sleep disturbance, anxiety and loss of self esteem.However, for men the symptoms tend to be conflict, anger, alcohol and drug abuse, risky behaviour and escapism by excessive working.
He told the conference, opened by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, that the majority of the men in the study were Irish but there were 20 different nationalities in all.
The factors found to increase the risk included a lower level of education, having an infant with sleep problems, having a pre-term or overdue infant, a history of depression, lack of support from a partner, living in rented accommodation, poor economic circumstances, not having paternity leave and not being married.
There were a number of chefs in the study and they had high rates of postnatal depression, which could be linked to split-shift work and long hours.
Factors which protected fathers from the condition included having a full-term baby, being financially comfortable, being married and being able to rely on their partner for support.
There were low levels of paternity leave and this study showed the need for more recognition to be given to this kind of support, he added.
The study, which involved a questionnaire, also found there were no recognised referral guidelines in place.
One quarter of the pregnancies were unplanned but this had no bearing on whether a father became depressed.
Speaking at the conference Mr Varadkar said: "Nurses and midwives are at the heart of patient safety and patient care; Ireland's nurses are well educated, highly-skilled and motivated. They are a great asset for the health service. We must ensure that this pool of talent is utilised properly."