POSTPARTUM DEPRESSIVE SYMPTOMS MEDIATE THE RELATION BETWEEN TESTOSTERONE AND SLEEP PROBLEMS IN NEW FATHERS

All Authors:
Diane Goldenberg, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, United States (Primary Presenter); Darby Saxbe, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States

The transition to fatherhood is characterized by alterations in testosterone, marked sleep disruption, and heightened risk for depression. These changes interact in bidirectional and complex ways with significant implications for individuals traversing an important life transition. Prior studies show males with lower testosterone after the birth of their child are more depressed. Additionally, postpartum sleep quality exacerbates depressive symptoms over time in new fathers. However, a clear and mechanistic understanding of how sleep, hormones, and depression interact over the transition to parenthood is currently missing, given a lack of prospective research conducted before and after infant birth. The aim of the current study is to begin to address this gap.

Data are drawn from the ongoing (Hormones Across the Transition to Childrearing) HATCH study. Thirty men expecting their first child provided self-reports of depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory) and sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Assessment) six months into their partners’ pregnancy and again six months after the baby’s birth. In addition, saliva samples were provided at both time points and assayed for testosterone. Analyses revealed that lower levels of prenatal testosterone were associated with greater postpartum sleep problems, controlling for prenatal sleep. In other words, hormone levels predicted the emergence of sleep problems across the transition to fatherhood. This association was significantly mediated by endorsement of postpartum, but not prenatal, depressive symptoms. Implications for the role of prenatal hormones and postpartum depressive symptoms in the development of sleep problems across the transition to fatherhood will be discussed.