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Depression In Fathers As Well As Mothers May Lead To Premature Birth, Study

Update Date: Jan 23, 2016 03:16 PM EST

At the Centre for Health Equity Studies in Stockholm (CHESS) scientists have discovered that depression might boost the risk of premature birth if it is experienced by both parents.

Even though depression in pregnant women has been known to affect babies, leading to low birth weight and increased risk of premature birth, there is little research on the effect of depression in fathers and its influence on the mother or the baby.

"Depression of a partner can be considered to be a substantial source of stress for an expectant mother, and this may result in the increased risk of very preterm birth seen in our study," Anders Hjern, who participated in the research, said in a press release."Paternal depression is also known to affect sperm quality, have epigenetic effects on the DNA of the baby, and can also affect placenta function. However, this risk seems to be reduced for recurrent paternal depression, indicating that perhaps treatment for the depression reduces the risk of preterm birth."

The team examined 350,000 Swedish births between 2007 and 2012 and also looked at parental depression to check if there was a link to the premature birth between 22 and 31 weeks, and also between 32 to 36 weeks.

Depression was defined as either getting antidepressants or hospital care right from 12 months before the birth right up to the second trimester. Parents without depression in the 12 months before their diagnosis were thought to be "new" cases, as opposed to other cases grouped into the "recurrent" depression groups.

"Our results suggest that both maternal and paternal depression should be considered in preterm birth prevention strategies and both parents should be screened for mental health problems," Djern added. "Since men are less likely to seek professional help for any mental health problems, a proactive approach towards targeting the well-being of expectant fathers may be beneficial."

Mothers who showed both new and recurrent depression were linked to a 30 to 40 percent increased risk of premature birth between 22 to 21 weeks. However, new depression in fathers was linked to a 38 percent increase in the risk of premature birth between 32 to 36 weeks.

However, recurrent depression in fathers showed no link to premature birth.

The findings were published in the Jan. 19,2016 issue of BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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