New fathers can get the "baby blues" too and are especially at risk if their wives or partners are depressed, British researchers said Monday.
A study of British men also found that stepfathers have an especially high risk of postpartum depression."Men in stepfamilies may be at greater risk for depression than those in traditional families, and this risk is closely linked to their partners' depressive symptoms," the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Kirby Deater-Deckard and colleagues at the University of Bristol surveyed more than 7,000 men before and after their wives or partners had babies.
Postnatal depression is a well-known phenomenon, affecting 13 percent of all new mothers in a variety of different countries and cultures.
Men have been found to also suffer from the baby blues, but Deat-er-Deckard's team wanted to know if the kind of family made a difference.
"Fathers also need to adjust during pregnancy and after childbirth, and there is evidence that some men experience a decline in physical and psychological health after a child's birth, particularly if they are inexperienced with child care," they wrote.
They asked the men a number of questions about their situation, and then gave them a standard test for depression. About 3 percent of the fathers in traditional families, where the parents raised their own children together, showed clear signs of depression.
This rose to about 7 percent in families where one of the parents had children from a previous relationship.
"A higher depression score was related to being older, having less education, experiencing more stressful life events, receiving less social support, having smaller social networks, and having more aggressive and less affectionate partner relationships," the researchers wrote.
But the strongest predictor of a depressed father was a depressed mother, and the combination had a particularly negative impact on the children.