Paternity leave reduces the risk of developing postpartum depression in fathers

Paternity leave reduces the risk of developing postpartum depression in fathers

While the possibility of postpartum depression in mothers is increasingly well known to the general public, that of fathers is much less so. However, in the weeks following a birth, fathers are also at risk of depression. This phenomenon is not so rare since it occurs in one out of ten fathers and in almost two out of ten mothers. What is the impact of the two-week paternity leave on the mental health of fathers? But also mothers?

Since 1is July 2021, paternity leave is four weeks with pay. It was previously two paid weeks. It has already been shown that this is beneficial for a more equitable sharing of household chores and child-rearing tasks. It also has positive consequences on the emotional, psychological and social development of the baby. But what about the sanity of the father? From the mother ? This study analyzed the impact of two weeks of paid paternity leave without risk of job loss on the mental health of 10,000 heterosexual couples.

Paternity leave reduces the risk of postpartum depression in the father…

The data comes from the Elfe cohort study comprising more than 13,000 mothers and nearly 11,000 fathers who took in a child in 2011. For each couple, it was indicated whether the father had taken his two-week paternity leave or had intend to take it. At two months of the child, a questionnaire was submitted to each of the participants to detect a depressive syndrome or not:

  • among the fathers who had already taken paternity leave (64%), 4.5% had a postpartum depression syndrome;
  • among the fathers planning to take paternity leave (17%), 4.8% had a postpartum depression syndrome;
  • Among the fathers who had not taken paternity leave and did not plan to take one (19%), 5.7% had a postpartum depression syndrome.

But increases it in the mother!

The trend was reversed in the mother:

  • among the mothers whose spouse had taken paternity leave, 16.1% had a postpartum depression syndrome;
  • among the mothers whose spouse intended to take paternity leave, 15.1% had a postpartum depression syndrome;
  • Among the mothers whose spouse had not taken paternity leave, 15.3% presented with postpartum depression syndrome.

It can be concluded that the duration of two weeks of paternity leave may not be sufficient to reduce the risk of postpartum depression in the mother. The history of depression in the mothers could not be properly assessed: spouses of women with a history of depression may have been more willing to take paternity leave. Further work is needed to assess more precisely the impact of paternity leave since it was extended to four weeks.

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