BACKGROUND Comparing women's and men's emotional reactions to childbirth can clarify the impact on mental health of childbirth as a life event.
METHOD Fifty-four first-time mothers attending obstetric services in Oporto, Portugal, and 42 of their husbands or partners participated in a longitudinal study of their mental health. All subjects were given a semi-structured clinical interview (SADS) at 6 months antenatally and at 12 months postnatally and sub-samples were interviewed at 3 months postnatally. At all these times all the mothers and fathers also completed a translated version of a self-rating scale for depression, the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).
RESULTS More women than men had past histories of depression but their rates of depression did not differ significantly during pregnancy. In the first 3 months postnatally, nearly a quarter of the women at risk were found to have become depressed (major, minor and intermittent) in contrast with less than 5% of the men. In the next nine months men were more prone to become depressed than previously and their conditions tended to follow an earlier onset of depression in their spouses.
CONCLUSION Comparisons of EPDS and SADS ratings showed that the translated EPDS was a valid instrument for women but it was less satisfactory when applied to men.