It is extremely important to identify postpartum depression early on so that mothers can reduce her and her child the risk. Many of the sad stories we hear about on the news could have been prevented had there been earlier detection of postpartum symptoms. By identifying postpartum depression as early as possible, we can increase the likelihood of a healthy development for both mom and baby.

Effects of PPD on a Child

Researchers are discovering that depression in new mothers affects infants in a way that could harm them for life13. Depressed moms sometimes spend less time talking to and holding their babies. During the first few years of life, babies really need the full attention of their mothers in order to grow normally into happy, healthy kids. The brains of babies change and grow very quickly, so every piece of knowledge and experience they get is important to their overall growth14. Infancy is the most developmentally important period in the life of humans because babies learn the most about the world at this time. Moms with PPD tend to play with their infants less. Interactions such as cooing, gazing, speaking baby talk and touching help infants in their healthy development. After two months, infants of depressed mothers score lower on developmental scales than infants of non-depressed mothers15. There are some scientists that even think that boys may be even more affected than girls16.

Babies can sense when their mothers are depressed and as a result, feel stress. Unfortunately, because they are still developing, their brains are delicate. When people become stressed, a stress hormone is released in the brain. In babies, too much of this hormone can affect the normal development of their brains. For example, children of mothers who had PPD were later found to have trouble controlling their emotions and even telling others how they were feeling. Also, they had a lot of difficulty paying attention in class16. It has been found that the way mothers speak to their babies, touching and face-to-face interaction between mother and infant are linked to the infants’ attachment, attention and development of feelings17. Through videotaped sessions where both depressed and not depressed mothers where observed with their 37-42 week old infants, researchers were able to confirm that mothers with PDD demonstrated more negative and neglectful interactions with infants.

It has been shown that the effects of PPD last well beyond the first 4 years of life. The many studies that have followed infants until 11 years old have proved PPD has long lasting effects on infants16.

In conclusion, postpartum depression is a very real disorder that can hurt not only the mother experiencing it but her baby too. The baby is not only immediately affected, but can also continue to show negative affects well into their adolescent years. Therefore it is extremely important to understand more about the effects of the negative interactions between depressed mothers and their dependent infants. The trend of ignoring postpartum depression must be broken. Although more research is needed to substantiate some of the greater claims made by researchers, it stands to reason that young first time mothers deserve the chance to familiarize themselves with the current research. In order to do that, the current literature needs to be translated into an easy to understand format that people outside of the field can understand. The World Wide Web, for example, would be an appropriate way to offer information to mothers expecting their first child.


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