Unexpected effects of parental leave on postpartum depression

Two weeks of parental leave significantly reduces the risk of postpartum depression in the father … But slightly increases the risk of postpartum depression in the mother, concludes a French study published in The Lancet. The correlation is much more complicated than it seems, since risk factors for postpartum depression are many, from socioeconomic status to daily household stress.

Postpartum depression can affect both father and mother

“The topic of paternal health during pregnancy or after childbirth is still relatively little known and is the subject of several studies,” epidemiologist Maria Melchior, research director at Inserm, who led the work, told Science et Avenir. Fathers, like mothers, can indeed have postpartum depression, which is then rather described as “postpartum”. The symptoms in both are the same and similar to depression outside of any birth: loss of interest in pleasures, sadness, loss of sleep and appetite, isolation, etc. In fact, in the study, “two months after birth, in 5% of fathers and 15% of mothers had symptoms consistent with postpartum depression. -partum”, although there was no official diagnosis, Maria Melchior clarifies.

Because parental leave gives fathers the opportunity to support their partner in housework and childcare, and increases opportunities for father-child communication, the researchers expect it to be more of a protective factor against the onset of postpartum depression in both mothers and mothers. at fathers. But to their surprise, this is not quite what they find among the almost 11,000 fathers and 13,000 mothers of the French ELFE cohort.

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