The course and interrelationship of maternal and paternal perinatal depression

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2016 Aug;19(4):655-63. doi: 10.1007/s00737-016-0598-4. Epub 2016 Jan 20.


The aims of the study were to describe course of depression in both mothers and fathers from the third trimester of pregnancy through 6 months postpartum and to examine the relationship between maternal and paternal depression. Hypotheses were as follows: (a) Depressive symptoms would be correlated between parents and (b) earlier depressive symptoms in one parent would predict later increases in depression in the other. Eighty cohabitating primiparous couples were recruited from prenatal OBGYN visits and community agencies and enrolled during pregnancy, between 28-week gestation and delivery. Participants completed measures of depression on four occasions: baseline and 1, 3, and 6 months postpartum. Ninety-eight percent of the enrolled couples (78; 156 individuals) completed the study. For both mothers and fathers, symptom severity ratings and classification as a probable case were stable across time, with prenatal depression persisting through 6 months in 75 % of mothers and 86 % of fathers. Prenatal depression in fathers predicted worsening depressive symptom severity in mothers across the first six postpartum months but not vice versa. In both expecting/new mothers and fathers, depression demonstrates a stable pattern of occurrence and symptom severity between 28-month gestation and 6 months postpartum. Although prenatal maternal depression is not predictive of symptom change in fathers, mothers with prenatally depressed partners showed significant worsening in overall symptom severity during the first six postpartum months.

Keywords: Depression; Family; Fathers; Perinatal depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Postnatal Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult