Postpartum Depression - What’s The Effect On Children?


A mother's mood, energy levels, and overall stability are directly impacted by Postpartum depression, including detrimental effects on her child. Children of mothers with active Postpartum depression of at least eight months are at a higher risk of behavioral and academic difficulties and an increased chance of developing mental health problems.

According to researchers of the British Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in a long-term study, it was discovered that women suffering from severe Postpartum depression at 2 and 8 months post-delivery had a higher likelihood of chronic depression 11 years later.

In addition, they also discovered that children were:

  • At a 4x more significant risk of developing behavioral issues between 3-4 years old
  • At a 2x more substantial chance of decreased math scores at 16 years old
  • At a 7x more significant risk of having depression at 18 years old

  • Decreased bonding between mother and child.

Mother and child interaction is typical during regular routines. Unfortunately, intrusive or withdrawn behaviors may occur in mothers suffering from Postpartum depression, ultimately hindering this natural bonding experience. In addition, the mother may suddenly interfere with the baby's activities, leading to the child experiencing intrusive feelings. As a result, the baby may push itself away from the mother or cope with internalized anger and self-protection.

However, the more common scenario is withdrawal, disinterest, unresponsiveness, or emotional numbness from the mother. As a result of these interactions, the child may have increased difficulty in self-regulating, which may cause the development of passive behavior, withdrawal, and difficulty bonding with others.

  • Impaired cognitive development.

Mothers with active Postpartum depression are not as likely to offer their children a variety of learning stimulants. However, if they provide these stimulants, they may be disconnected from these activities or not consistently provide positive feedback. Not only can this hinder the baby's learning and development, but it can also negatively harm their information processing capabilities.

  • Higher likelihood of depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders.

Multiple studies have linked an increased risk of psychopathology in children of Postpartum depression mothers. While this may partially result from genetics, Postpartum depression significantly increases family stress, poor connection abilities, and unstable emotions.

Recent studies suggest that even if there is an inheritable risk for depression, managing the mother's symptoms also lessons the harmful impacts on her children. The risk of emotional and behavioral issues when they get older is also decreased.

Postpartum Depression Treatments

Fortunately, Postpartum depression is easily treatable and has a high success rate of over 80%. However, without treatment, the mother is likely to suffer long-term symptoms of depression, including long-term impacts on her child.

A personalized approach is the focus of treatment, based on the mother's needs and her mental health specialists, but may be in addition to:

  • Talk/group therapy
  • Support groups
  • Medication
  • Couples/relationship counseling
  • Intensive outpatient programs
  • Self-care practices