Paternity leave reduces the risk of postpartum depression in fathers

Inserm publishes a study, according to which the effects of paternity leave on fathers’ mental health are positive.

It is estimated that postpartum depression concerns 1 woman out of 6 in the year after the birth of her child.

What about fathers? Inserm assumes that “10% of fathers are likely to develop it in the year following the birth of their child”. And on January 4 published a study highlighting the beneficial effects of paternity leave on fathers’ mental health.

The effect of 2 weeks paternity leave

Researchers from Inserm and Sorbonne University at the Pierre-Louis Institute of Epidemiology and Public Health used data from a large cohort study, which includes more than 13,000 mothers and almost 11,000 fathers in France whose children were born in 2011. At the time, paternity leave was not more than two weeks.

The fathers had to answer a questionnaire two months after the birth. It turns out that 19% of them had indicated that they had not taken and did not intend to take their paternity leave; and that 17% were considering doing so, as 64% had already taken it.

Fathers and postpartum: what results?

Main results? 4.5% of fathers who took paternity leave and 4.8% of those who intended to use it had postnatal depression, compared with 5.7% of those who did not take it.

Katharine Barry, Inserm PhD student at Sorbonne University and lead author of this study, sums up:

In addition to the benefits that paternity leave can provide in terms of family dynamics and children’s development, it can therefore also have positive effects in relation to fathers’ mental health.

What impact on women?

Among women only, 1 in 6 mothers (16.1%) whose partner had used paternity leave had postpartum depression, compared to 15.1% of those whose partner intended to use paternity leave, and finally 15.3% of those whose partner had not taken paternity leave.

What would be the reason? The specialist thinks so “The negative association observed in mothers could suggest that a duration of two weeks of paternity leave is, on the contrary, not sufficient to prevent postpartum depression in mothers”.

From now on, the effects of extending the duration of paternity leave to 25 days, which has been in force since 1 July 2021, must be analysed. “this work (…) supports the importance of family policies aimed at fathers and questions the modalities of paternity leave for the benefit of the mental health of both members of the couple”.

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