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20% of husbands have fits of depression after wives give birth: study

Slightly less than 20 percent of husbands tend to become uneasy or worried for no reason following their wives' childbirth, according to the results of research conducted by a team of experts including those from the National Center for Child Health and Development.

    They are subject to fits of depression apparently due in part to pressure to strike a balance between child-rearing and work. Experts say that husbands who are subject to fits of depression run higher risks of resorting to behavior that could lead to child abuse such as raising their voice to scold their children.

    While men are encouraged to actively take care of their children, the research results show that husbands could become mentally unhealthy. Kenji Takahara, a researcher at the National Center for Child Health and Development, said, "It is necessary to make arrangements such as shortening working hours to reduce stress on husbands."

    The research team looked into relationships between husbands' mental health conditions while their wives were pregnant and behavior that would lead to child abuse in municipalities of Aichi Prefecture for about six months from November 2012. Of 215 husbands whom the researchers were able to keep track of for three months after their wives gave birth to their children, 36 (16.7 percent) of them showed signs of being subject to fits of depression, for example by blaming themselves unnecessarily when things didn't go well, the research results show. The husbands who tended to feel depressed from when their wives were pregnant had risks of resorting to behavior that could lead to child abuse that were 5.7 times higher than those of husbands who were not subject to fits of depression.

    The risk of husbands resorting to behavior that could lead to child abuse rose 4.6-fold when the husbands were subject to fits of depression after their wives' childbirth. Such husbands tend to pinch the skin on their children, spank them on the butt, skip bathing their children or changing their underwear, and scold them by yelling, among other behavior, researchers say.

    Under the action program called "Healthy Parents and Children 21," the government has been taking measures to reduce the incidence among women of postnatal depression. But the effects of women's pregnancy and childbirth on their husbands had not been examined before.

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