Written By Caroline Meyer
When it comes to PND, most of the time the focus is on the Mum who is suffering from depression symptoms and ways to combat the condition. Recent studies have looked at how babies are affected when mum is suffering from postpartum depression. The long term study looked at the development of the children and the long term effects. It was found that mothers who suffer from PND are likely to do so again in subsequent pregnancies and girl children are likely to develop PND themselves during pregnancy and after the birth of their own children.
Children from mums who suffered from PND are also four times more likely to have behavioural problems growing up. These children are twice as likely to score badly in mathematics. They are also much more likely to suffer from depression around the age of 18. They may also have emotional problems and suffer from issues such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder); ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and this may even be related to some forms of autism and sensory sensitivities. This is especially true when there is a family history of depression and mental illness.
Due to history of depression being a major risk factor for PND, the results may be skewed as it may also be an inherited trait in children that bring these factors to the fore. Women that suffer from anxiety and depression are far more likely to PND, so these traits may be passed down in the genes.
Another study has looked at how reducing the symptoms of depression in mothers with PND has resulted in reduced adverse effects on children. The longer the mum has shown symptoms of depression, the longer it takes for the children to get over the effects, up to a year after mum has gained control of her symptoms. So it appears that even if there are some inherited traits, treating depression early can result in a lot less negative behavioural and emotional problems in the children.
The early interactions between mum and her babies are shown to have a marked long term effect on the children. Babies need to establish trust and learn how certain behaviours garner specific responses in order to eventually regulate their own behaviours. Interactions in the first year of baby’s life can even effect immune and brain function. High levels of stress in the home can also negatively affect the overall health of adults and children. Gaining assistance as soon as possible to get past the symptoms of depression is critical to the development of the child as well as the wellbeing of everyone in the home.
Postnatal depression is treatable. Screens can now be done during pregnancy and after birth to determine if mum is suffering from depression. Faster diagnosis leads to improved outcomes. It is recommended mums are checked regularly for up to a year after the birth of the baby. Mums who think they may be suffering from depression should not be afraid to open up and ask for help. Despite the fact that depression is now being seen as a common mental condition, there is still a stigma surrounding it and many people are afraid they may be branded as bad parents if they ask for help. It needs to be commonly accepted that treatment is necessary and that people should not be afraid to seek health for their own and their family’s wellbeing.
PND is mothers and fathers needs to stop being a taboo topic and should be spoken about more often and openly in a sensitive way. This will see more people coming forward and asking for health. More people that get assistance early will result in better outcomes for children raised in households where parents have struggled with depression. In most cases, medication is not necessary and people are assisted purely through counselling and psychiatry. If you or someone you love is suffering from PND, reach out to your medical practitioner to help with getting assistance to reduce the impact of PND on the whole family.