Postpartum depression: How does it affect my baby?

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Postpartum depression: How does it affect my baby?


How does postpartum depression in the mother affect her baby?

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It is important to keep in mind that postpartum depression is treatable, especially with a combination of medication and therapy. But if the mother's depression isn't treated promptly, her baby can be affected. Research shows that infants of depressed mothers are at increased risk of behavioral problems, emotional difficulties, and delays in growth and language development.

About 10 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression. The signs and symptoms — such as fatigue, mood swings, sleeping problems, sadness and anxiety — can be so strong that they interfere with daily tasks, including caring for an infant. Studies show that depressed mothers are less involved with their infant. They are also inconsistent in how they respond to their infant. They can be loving and attentive one minute and withdrawn the next.

Often postpartum depression isn't recognized or treated because some normal post-pregnancy changes cause similar symptoms in new mothers. In addition, some women don't tell anyone about their symptoms because they feel embarrassed, ashamed or guilty about being depressed when they're supposed to be happy.

However, early detection and treatment of postpartum depression is critical — not only for the mother but for the infant. The less exposure the infant has to the mother's depression, the lower the risk of long-term problems in the child. It helps if the father or another caregiver can assist in meeting the needs of the baby while the mom is depressed or recovering from depression.

Last Updated: 01/05/2006
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