(CBS) – Northwestern University researchers screened parents during their newborns’ stay in neonatal ICUs, and up to a month after discharge. Of the parents screened, 33% of mothers and 17% of fathers had depression symptoms. While mothers improved once their babies were home, dads were still experiencing symptoms.
Study author Dr. Craig Garfield with Lurie Children’s Hospital says dads should be screened more for signs of depression- such as trouble sleeping, or increased anger, and they should not be afraid to talk to their partner or a professional.
“It’s possible that dads’ depressive symptoms persisted because we really don’t talk about it much, or even acknowledge the fact that they also might be experiencing some trauma and anxiety and depression in this big shift to suddenly having a premature baby,” Garfield says.
New dad Stephen Hasson’s son Max was born very premature. He was in the NICU for 97 days.
It was months of stress and worry. Hasson says he realized, he was suffering from depression.
“I had to be strong for my wife and for Max, and so the real emotional toll didn’t hit me until we got home,” Hasson says. “Having feelings of regret, why did I have this child, I can’t do this.”
Max is now a happy and healthy 10-month-old. Hasson credits his family and his therapist for helping him. “Mental health as a whole should be not a taboo topic,” he says. “It’s just like exercise or eating well. I think working on your mental health is just as important as that.”
Dr. Garfield says, seeking therapy is the right move. “There’s a significant number of fathers out there who do need help. And when you help that father, you actually end up helping that baby and that mother as well.”
The study also found that if doctors were to screen parents in the NICU, it would help predict which parents may have depression symptoms after going home.