What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (also called postnatal depression) is a sub-type of depression which occurs within twelve months of the baby’s birth and affects over 10 per cent of women (it can also affect the father / partner, although this is rarer).
Symptoms may include :
- feeling one cannot care for the baby adequately
- frustration, anger and irritability
- feelings of guilt / shame
- feelings of emptiness
- problems bonding with baby
- anxiety and sadness
- decreased or increased appetite
- social withdrawal
- poor self-care
- fear of hurting self, partner or baby
- impaired ability to make decisions
- extreme fatigue / lethargy
N.B. The above list is not exhaustive
The Study :
The study involved one hundred and fifty adult, female participants, each of whom provided self-reports about :
- whether they had suffered childhood trauma
- whether they had suffered postpartum depression during the first six months following the birth of their child
Also measured, a year after the birth of the baby, were :
- the quality of mother/infant bonding
- infant development
- the physical growth of the infant
RESULTS OF THE STUDY :
The main findings of the study were as follows :
- those women who had experienced childhood trauma had significantly greater symptoms of depression in the six months following the birth of the baby compared to those women who took part in the study and had not experienced childhood trauma
- one year after the women had given birth to the child those women who had developed postpartum depression, on average, bonded significantly less well with their babies compared to the group of women who had not developed postpartum depression
- one year after the women had given birth to the child those children born to the women who had suffered postpartum depression were, on average, significantly less well physically developed than the infants of the women who had not developed postpartum depression.
From these findings, the researchers concluded that those women who had suffered childhood trauma were more likely to suffer postpartum depression which, in turn, increased risk of impaired mother-infant bonding and sub-optimal physical development of their children.
The researchers concluded that perinatal care should address both maternal histories of childhood trauma as well as depressive symptoms.
Possible Effects Of Postpartum Depression On The Child
Treatment of postpartum depression is important not just for the person who is suffering from it, but also for that person’s child who may be affected by his/her mother’s condition.
A review of many studies (a metaanalysis) carried out by Beck (2004) suggests that a mother’s postpartum depression can have a ‘small, but significant adverse effect on the child’s emotional and cognitive development.
It should also be noted that as well as stressful life events potentially contributing to the development of postpartum depression, genetics and hormonal changes may well also play a part; more research is needed.
Beck, C.,The effects of postpartum depression on child development: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychiatric Nursing. Volume 12, Issue 1, February 1998, Pages 12-20
Choi et al., 2017. Maternal childhood trauma, postpartum depression, and infant outcomes: Avoidant affective processing as a potential mechanism Journal of Affective Disorders. Volume 211, 15 March 2017, Pages 107-115
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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