Background: For women, the perinatal period confers an increased risk of severe psychiatric disorders, but similar evidence for fathers is lacking. We examined rates of first-time and recurrent psychiatric disorders in men before and after becoming fathers.
Methods: A descriptive prospective study design was applied using information from the Danish National registers. Perinatal psychiatric episodes were assessed as incidence of first-time and prevalence (including recurrence) of recorded in- or outpatient admissions for any mental disorder and redeemed prescriptions for psychotropic medication in fathers to children born from January 1, 1998 until December 31, 2015.
Results: We identified 929,415 births and 543,555 unique fathers. Incidence and prevalence proportions for paternal psychiatric in- and outpatient episodes showed an increasing trend over the perinatal period and were marginally higher postpartum compared to pregnancy; e.g., median incidence proportion for inpatient treatment during pregnancy was 0.07 (95% CI: 0.04; 0.07) and 0.10 (95% CI: 0.08; 0.11) postpartum per 1000 births. No difference between the periods was found for incidence of prescriptions for psychotropic medication. Psychiatric disorders in expecting and new fathers were mainly treated in primary care with cumulative incidence of prescriptions for psychotropic medication of 14.56 per 1000 births during the first year of fatherhood.
Limitations: We only capture fathers who actively sought and received treatment, and we consequently underestimate milder psychiatric episodes in expecting and new fathers.
Conclusion: Becoming a father did not appear to trigger a substantially increased risk of severe psychiatric disorders, as it has been observed for new mothers.
Keywords: Fathers; Incidence; Perinatal psychiatric episodes; Postpartum depression; Prevalence; Register-based population study.
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