Pregnancy and dad’s mental health

Research finds link between fathers’ mental health before and during their partner’s pregnancy.

Recent research conducted by the Centre of Adolescent Health’s Elizabeth Spry, Denise Becker, Rohan Borschmann, George Patton, Craig Olsson and colleagues, has found that men with histories of adolescent and young adult common mental disorders were over four times more likely to experience mental health problems during their partner’s pregnancy.

Data was obtained from a 20 year, two-generation study which assessed common mental health disorders nine times from age 14 to 29 years, and in the third trimester of subsequent pregnancies. Of the 214 men assessed, one in ten men reported mental health problems during their partner’s pregnancy. Around two thirds of these men had experienced common mental health disorders at least once prior to their partner’s pregnancy.

The study suggests that parents might experience a continuation of mental health problems in the transition to parenthood or a recurrence of persistent or recent preconception problems.

These findings highlight the need to attend to the mental health of men before they become fathers, with benefits for themselves and for their children. Ms Spry stated that ““Dads’ mental health problems are often overlooked, but they are common and distressing for both men and their families. Knowing which men are most likely to experience mental health problems in the transition to parenthood will help us to provide support and treatment for those who need it the most.”

The team is continuing research on how parents’ health and emotional adjustment before, during and after pregnancy might affect the development of their children.


Listen to Ms Spry, lead author, discuss the study during a recent interview with ABC Radio:

This paper forms part of the 2000 Stories: Victorian Adolescent & Intergenerational Health Cohort Studies (VAHCS & VIHCS), which began in 1992 and has spanned over 25 years. A group of around 2000 Year 9 students completed six interviews at school age (from Years 9 – 12), three interviews in young adulthood (aged around 21, 24 and 29) and more recently a tenth round of interviews as the participants turned 35. The study has brought attention to the importance of adolescence as a key determinant of future health.

For additional information on VAHCS, visit:

Publication citation

Spry, E., Giallo, R., Moreno-Betancur, M., Macdonald, J., Becker, D., Borschmann, R., . . . Olsson, C. (2018). Preconception prediction of expectant fathers’ mental health: 20-year cohort study from adolescence. BJPsych Open, 4(2), 58-60. doi:10.1192/bjo.2017.10 

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