Multiple studies have shown that postpartum depression can interfere with bonding between the mother and her infant. While new fathers may also develop depression, little is known about how depression in the father affects bonding.

A recent study from Sweden has taken a look at the association between maternal and paternal depressive symptoms and parental bonding with the infant. This study included 727 couples participating in a population-based cohort project (UPPSAT) in Uppsala, Sweden.  The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was administered at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum, and the Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire at 6 months.

For both mothers and fathers, depressive symptoms at 6 weeks postpartum were predictive of impaired bonding with the infant at 6 months postpartum. The prevalence of impaired bonding was highest among couples in which both experienced depressive symptoms.

While we focus primarily on depression in the mother, this study indicates that depression in the father may also have a negative impact and that we must consider the family as a whole. Treatment of depression in both parents is a priority, but families with one or more depressed parents may benefit from interventions that promote bonding and attachment.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Kerstis B, Aarts C, Tillman C, Persson H, Engström G, Edlund B, Öhrvik J, Sylvén S, Skalkidou A.  Association between parental depressive symptoms and impaired bonding with the infant.  Arch Womens Ment Health. 2015 Apr 10.