World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day: Postpartum depression can damage mother-child bond

Bringing home a newborn baby is a life-changing experience. While it brings a lot of happiness to the family, it is common for a new mother to experience baby blues, feel sad, depressed and at times, weepy. But, if the new mom experiences more severe psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations following a few days or even months after delivering a baby, she is probably experiencing the symptoms of a severe mood disorder known as postpartum depression (PPD), also called postnatal depression (PND).

Any woman, irrespective of an easy pregnancy, problem pregnancy, becoming a mother for the first time or a mother with one or more children, can be affected by PPD. The condition not only deteriorates the mother’s health and well-being but can also have unfavorable effects on the healthy development of the child. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), up to 1 in 7 women experience PPD in the United States.

Seeing such statistics, it is essential to help people understand the importance of a sound maternal mental health. The World Maternal Mental Health Day, which is being observed on May 3 this year, aims to spread awareness about the importance of maternal mental health and reduce the associated stigmas.

PPD can damage a mother’s well-being and the mother-infant relationship

PPD can worsen a woman’s overall well-being through changes in her diet, sleep patterns, activity levels, malnutrition and fatigue. Apart from a number of physical symptoms, such as pain, headaches, chest pain or difficulty in breathing, a woman affected by PPD might begin to experience high levels of anxiety and depression that can reduce her body’s immunity making her susceptible to infections.

One of the major effects that PPD can have on a woman is her reduced interest and ability to take care of her child. The condition has a direct impact on her relationship with the child, to the extent that she might not show any interest in picking up the child unless necessary.

The child might not be able to develop his/her ability to fight against fears due to the lack of the mother’s support. This is because the mother is always in a state of discomfort, self-doubt and anxiety, which might make her overlook the needs of her baby, including the signals that he/she needs to be comforted, encouraged or guided.

When a mother doesn’t help the child to overcome his/her fears, it manifests in the form of development of the child’s positive social skills, such as lack of confidence and comfort levels in social situations, negative social behavior and the likes.

Another major effect of PPD is the lack of the mother’s ability to interact and play with her child, which is essential to encourage the child’s physical and mental development. The mother’s inability to understand the importance of daily activities for the child’s overall growth acts as a major hindrance to the child’s overall development.

A number of studies have also suggested a high risk of developing anxiety symptoms or high-stress levels in a child whose mother is diagnosed with PPD. As feelings of doubt and stress are transferred to the child, there is a high probability that the child will develop emotional, intellectual and behavioral problems as an adult.

Treating PPD can make a child’s life better

Emotional and behavioral interaction with his/her mother is essential for the healthy development of a child and PPD interferes with it. A mother, dealing with PPD, must seek help from a professional mental health expert. A combination of medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotic medications and mood stabilizers, and therapies can help improve its symptoms.

If you know someone who is dealing with the symptoms of PPD, or any other related mental health condition, contact the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Our representatives can assist you in finding the best mental health rehabilitation centers in the U.S. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with our experts to know about the various mental health programs available in your vicinity.