PPMD Effects on Parents and Children This Emotional Life on PBS

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Postpartum

		

Parenting & PPMD

First contacts last a lifetime

Because mom—or dad—is overwhelmed by depression or another postpartum mood disorder, marshalling the emotional reserves to nurture an infant can take on monumental proportions. Poor caregiver bonding can adversely impact children for the rest of their lives. That’s why postpartum depression is so insidious. Its immediate effects are on mom or dad. But its cumulative, gradual effects can impact the child for a lifetime.

Effects on parents

Effects of PPMD on parents

Postpartum depression can impair a mother’s ability to interact with her baby so that the baby can form a secure attachment. Not every mother will experience the full range of effects, but postpartum mood disorders may contribute to the following in mothers or fathers.

Effects of postpartum depression on parents:

  • Being less sensitive or responsive to their baby’s needs
  • Feeling out of sync with their child, being withdrawn or being unable to play with their baby
  • Avoiding the child and/or partner
  • Providing inconsistent or intrusive parenting
  • Expressing little positive emotion toward the child, such as smiling
  • Showing more irritability or aggression
  • Experiencing increased conflict in the marriage or relationship
  • Having difficulty knowing how to best soothe their child or baby

Effects on children

Effects of PPMD on children

Several studies suggest that babies of mothers with untreated postpartum depression are more likely to be slow to develop motor skills. (Those are activities such as lifting the head, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and walking.) These children also tend to show delayed development in cognitive skills—the mental skills that guide how knowledge is obtained.

When mom has postpartum depression, the infant may withdraw. The baby may be more irritable and difficult to soothe. Studies show that by age 4 or 5, some of these children show impaired cognitive and intellectual performance. By age 11, children of mothers who had untreated postpartum depression had lower IQ scores than the youngsters of mothers without postpartum depression. The children also had greater problems with attention and had a tougher time with mathematical reasoning.

Over time, children of postpartum parents show signs of:

  • Low birth weight
  • Reduced duration of gestation, and preterm birth
  • Insecure attachment
  • Poor performance on development tests
  • Hyperactivity
  • Conduct disorders (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and aggressive behaviors such as conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder)
  • Increased likelihood of having a mood disorder
  • Increased physical aggression towards others
  • Poor social and academic performance
  • Excessive crying, difficult to soothe

Find Help

Locate mental health and well-being support organizations in your area.