Background: Men's experiences of anxiety within the perinatal period can adversely impact themselves, their partner and infant. However, we know little about the prevalence and course of men's anxiety across the perinatal period. The current review is one of the first to systematically review the published literature.
Methods: Five databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane, SCOPUS, and Web of Science) were searched to identify relevant papers published prior to April 2015. The literature search identified articles with data for expectant fathers (prenatal period) and/or fathers of an infant aged between 0 and 1 (postnatal period). The following data were extracted: (a) anxiety disorder prevalence (diagnostic clinical interviews), (b) 'high' anxiety symptom prevalence (above thresholds/cut-points on anxiety symptom scales) and (c) mean anxiety levels (anxiety symptom scales). Initially, 537 unique papers were identified. Subsequently, 43 papers met criteria for inclusion in the review.
Results: Prevalence rates for 'any' anxiety disorder (as defined by either diagnostic clinical interviews or above cut-points on symptom scales) ranged between 4.1% and 16.0% during the prenatal period and 2.4-18.0% during the postnatal period. The data reviewed suggest the course of anxiety across the perinatal period is fairly stable with potential decreases postpartum.
Limitations: Wide variation in study measurement and methodology makes synthesis of individual findings difficult. Anxiety is highly comorbid with depression, and thus measures of mixed anxiety/depression might better capture the overall burden of mental illness.
Conclusions: Anxiety disorders are common for men during the perinatal period. Both partners should be included in discussions and interventions focused on obstetric care and parent mental health during the perinatal period.
Keywords: Anxiety; Fatherhood; Men; Perinatal; Prevalence.
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