We’re taught that having a baby is the happiest time in a woman’s life, but what may be less acknowledged is that it can also be one of the most stressful and anxiety-producing life transitions of parenting she will ever experience. It’s common for women to experience the “baby blues,” but up to one in seven women experience postpartum depression (PPD).
WHAT IS BABY BLUES?
The baby blues are characterized by relatively mild symptoms such as irritability, depressed mood, and anxiety. It usually resolves within 10 days of giving birth. Women with especially severe baby blues symptoms are more likely to experience postpartum depression at a later point.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION (PPD)?
Postpartum depression can at first look like the baby blues. In fact, they share many symptoms, including mood swings, crying, sadness, insomnia, and irritability. The difference is that the symptoms of PPD are more severe and longer-lasting. Symptoms may include lack of interest in or negative feelings towards your baby, guilt, lack of energy, change in appetite and sleeping habits, and/or recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
HOW POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AFFECTS YOUR BABY
If you’re struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression such as fatigue, irritability, apathy, and tearfulness, it is difficult—if not impossible—to properly look after your newborn’s needs. Your baby will be affected if the depression is left untreated. Children of depressed mothers are more likely to develop behavior problems, sleep problems, temper tantrums, hyperactivity, and developmental delays. Risk for social and emotional problems, language deficits, attentional problems, and depression is increased among children of depressed mothers.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND ATTACHMENT
Mothers with postpartum depression interact less with their babies, and are less likely to breastfeed, play with, and read to their children. They may also be inconsistent in the way they care for their newborns. Although depressed mothers can be loving and attentive at times, at others they may react negatively, or not at all. This inconsistency disrupts the bonding process between mother and child. This emotional bonding process, known as attachment, is the most important task of infancy.
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