How Does Postpartum Depression Affect the Baby?
The effects of postpartum depression are well known. They can lead to a lack of bonding with the baby as well as longer-lasting depression, fatigue, and even maternal suicide. What are the long-term effects on the baby?
The mother’s mental health can have long-term effects on the baby. An anxious mother can raise an anxious child and some children grow up having to be their parent’s caretaker. Other times, depression can make mothers unmotivated, affect the ability to bond with the baby at the beginning stages of development and be apathetic to the needs of the baby.
The good is that depression can be easily treated and the effects can be minimal. If you can recognize the symptoms of PPD (as opposed to the normal “baby blues,” which happens just a few weeks while your body is adjusting to the hormonal drop that comes immediately after giving birth). Here are the symptoms of the baby blues vs PPD. Baby blues typically ease up after a couple of weeks/months and the edge can be softened by a few lifestyle changes. PPD, however, lasts much longer and is more severe. It requires a diagnosis but there are many treatment options that can help and it is easily helped with professional care.
Symptoms of Baby Blues
The baby blues are a normal feeling many women get after having a baby. The hormones go back to normal quickly and it can lead to feelings of sadness, crying spells, and mood swings. If you find yourself feeling those feelings, make sure you’re eating as healthy as you can. Try exercise (as long as it’s safe to do) and make sure to try to get some sleep and find time to do things you enjoy doing while baby naps. If that doesn’t work, you may be suffering from PPD which is much more serious and needs to be treated by a doctor or psychiatrist.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression (PPD) is when the baby blues don’t go away. If you feel a prolonged sense of sadness, suicidal thoughts, severe anxiety, insomnia, wanting to sleep too much, inability to concentrate, severe mood swings, inability to get out of bed, inability to properly care for the baby and it is really interfering with your ability to take proper care of your baby, you need to reach out to a doctor.
Effects of untreated Postpartum Depression on Baby’s Development
If PPD is ignored and untreated, it can lead to problems with bonding. You may have trouble feeling like you love the baby and you may even have feelings of hurting him. If you start to feel that way, it’s best to step back and place the baby in a safe area (like the crib) and walk off for a few minutes. It can also lead you to lose interest in caring for the baby, holding them, playing with or even taking care of them. You may feel like you don’t love them. Those are not normal feelings and should be discussed with your OB or PCP so you can possibly get help.
It also leads to an insecure bond and can lead the baby to grow up with problems attaching to other humans and even personality disorders if the symptoms go undiagnosed long enough. The baby won’t learn proper coping techniques and it can lead to anger or withdrawal. The baby could learn that if they show their needs or cry, it can lead to anger so they may withdraw. It could also lead to the baby learning they won’t get their needs met, so they won’t try to get help when they get older.
Cognitive Effects On Baby
Mothers who are depressed can neglect stimulating the baby from a very early age. That stimulation is needed for learning and cognitive growth. They may not care to buy enough toys that will help the baby learn and even if they do, the baby needs an enthusiastic parent or caretaker playing with them- showing them how things work and how to do things.
It can also lead to the baby not learning proper emotion control. Babies look to the older people in their environment to learn how to react. If the baby sees a constant state of depression, that will be what they internalize and eventually, they could end up depressed as teens and young adults.
Treatments for PPD
As stated earlier, there are many treatments for Postpartum Depression. If you’re breastfeeding, not all medications will be safe but there are some antidepressants that are. Besides medications, there are outpatient care, different therapies (individual, couples or group) and forms of self-care. Doctors normally do screenings so it’s important to be honest so you can get the treatment as soon as possible.
If you do feel suicidal or like you’re going to potentially harm the baby, put the baby in a safe area and step away. The doctors and programs recommend safely putting the baby in a crib then stepping away to count to ten. Try to calm yourself down or reach out to a trusted friend/relative to come help you if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Parenting isn’t easy and with mental health problems, it’s harder. SAMHSA’s hotline is here. You can find resources on their site and they have a toll-free and confidential phone line you can call if you’re having a mental health emergency.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Bethany Boggs
Bethany Boggs is a 30 something married mother of 2 kids. When she is not writing or working her day job, you can find her wrangling her 2 girls and 3 cats while sipping cold Starbucks and trying to remember why she walked into the room.