Postnatal depression has a severe effect on mother-baby interactions. Compared to well women, depressed mothers are less sensitively tuned to their baby’s needs and stimulate their babies less. As a result, babies whose mothers were depressed at 2 months after delivery had significantly poorer cognitive development at 18 months. A study of over 170 children showed that if their mother remained depressed throughout their first year, they scored around 10 per cent lower on IQ tests at age 3-4 years than those whose mothers were well during the first year of life. This result was reliable, even when other factors such as birth weight, parental IQ family environment and breastfeeding were taken into account.
If the mother’s depression remains undiagnosed and is prolonged, her baby will also find it more difficult to learn positive emotions such as joy, pleasure and laughter. This is likely if the mother’s illness leads her to ignore her baby, fail to interact with him or be irritable. If a depressed mother is given adequate support and is encouraged to make attempts to interact with her baby, cuddle him, and show love and affection, this will make all the difference to his development and alleviate her feelings of inadequacy. Research shows that if a depressed mother gets better before her baby is a year old, her baby is more likely to learn positive emotions – even if his mother was severely depressed and did not interact with him before.
So here are what you need to do to handle the postnatal depression:
– lf you think you are developing depression after your baby is born, it is vital for the well-being of both you and your baby that you seek help. If you have postnatal depression it must be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Treatment involves close emotional support. Antidepressant drugs or hormone treatment may be needed.
– Even when you are feeling low, try to interact with your baby – give him attention and play games with him to stimulate him.
– Try to have someone with you most of the time – a close friend or relative for example – both to help you, and to interact with your baby.
– lf you find it difficult to interact with your baby, don’t be afraid to ask your GP or health visitor for advice. Many mothers experience postnatal depression; keeping your feelings to yourself will only make you feel worse.
Interestingly, mothers who take part in a prenatal stimulation programme, and who use the BabyPlus unit, seem less likely to develop baby blues or postnatal depression. This may be due to the fact that they have a calmer, happier baby.
This post is from Alan Murray, the webmaster of a pain relief website. The site offers plenty of useful information on the many different types of pain you can suffer including rib pain, pelvic pain and calf pain.