Does Postpartum Depression Affect Children?

Pediatric practices are playing a much bigger role when it comes to the diagnosis of postpartum depression in new mothers – something which could have a positive effect on infants. Recent research suggests the importance of postpartum depression screening in a pediatric setting, and how it can influence mother-baby relationships and a young child’s brain development. Professional medical associations recommend postpartum depression screening and maternal depression screening for new mothers. In addition, more public and private healthcare insurances are including screenings as part of their coverage.

Studies show that postpartum depression is under-diagnosed – even though it affects so many women. It is believed that 10 to 20% of women who give birth in the US every year experience postpartum depression – a condition which can have an effect on their parenting. However, only half of all mothers who have the condition actually receive a diagnosis. Furthermore, only 15% of mothers who are told they have the condition seek out mental health services. Why? Many women struggle with the diagnosis, and few receive the treatment and support they really need.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can have a number of symptoms, such as:

Insomnia

Loss of appetite

Intense anger

Irritability

Loss of interest in sex

Lack of joy

Severe mood swings

Tiredness

Shame

Inadequacy

It is hoped that screening new mothers could help to diagnose the condition early, and encourage more women to seek help.

Postpartum Depression Effect on Children

When untreated, postpartum depression can have an effect on an infant’s social, physical, cognitive, and emotional development. Studies have shown that mother- infant interactions are significantly impacted by postpartum depression because mothers become too intrusive in infants activities or are disengaged in their infant’s life. Cognitive development also is diminished in infants with postpartum depressed mothers. Mothers who have postpartum depression are less likely to provide conditional stimulation causing their infants to have limited performance in nonsocial learning.

The ACOG – a non-profit organization dealing with women’s healthcare – have suggested that screening for the condition should take place six weeks after a mother has given birth at her postpartum visit. However, research suggests that many women won’t attend this appointment, especially those on low incomes. Medicaid allowed postpartum screenings to be incorporated into well-child visits back in 2013. Commercial insurers also followed suit, and the CHDI Foundation has provided training to healthcare providers to teach them more about the condition. However, a stigma still surrounds postpartum depression and children – a problem that will need to be addressed if healthcare professionals want more women to get the treatment and help they need.

At Kids First Pediatrics, we will work with you post pregnancy to determine whether you are experiencing postpartum depression. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact us today to talk with one of our pediatricians and we can help set you up with a postpartum depression screening.

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