When the Risk of Not Getting Help for PPD Just Isn’t Worth It

Babies are resilient. There’s no doubt about it. But babies and children may be negatively affected by a mom’s untreated depression, anxiety, or other mood disorder during pregnancy or postpartum. And it seems to me that this might not be a risk worth taking. Moms need help for PPD.

Please note carefully the specifics of what I said above: “Babies and children may be affected by a mother’s UNTREATED depression, anxiety, or other mood disorder during pregnancy or postpartum.” Many, many of you can attest to the fact that children whose mothers suffered from prenatal or postpartum depression or anxiety and received treatment are just fine- even thriving.

Moms who make it a priority to get help for PPD, follow treatment recommendations from a trained professional, get well, and take care of themselves do so to benefit not just themselves but also their children. And most of these kiddos go on to be happy and healthy preschoolers, teens and adults.

What we worry about is when a mom’s depression or anxiety goes untreated. It is these instances when there is high potential for emotional, social and developmental delays in babies and children. I say this fully knowing that this fact may bring additional layers of anxiety to women who already suffer, and I am hopeful that those women understand that this post is not a condemnation or a finger shake. It is, instead, a compassionate offering through a realistic look at the risks that may come to those who do not reach out for the support that they deserve.

I am motivated to write this after reading an article in the New York Times Magazine that talks about Depression in Preschoolers. While we know that there are many factors contributing to the development of depressive symptoms in children this young, and that often these children do not have parents who are depressed themselves (and, conversely, having a depressed parent does not necessarily mean that a young child will also be depressed), we do know that many of these little people may not have received the empathetic attunement and emotional mirroring from their mothers that they need to thrive. Babies need to be attended to and heard, they need to be held and comforted, they desire eye contact and voice recognition, and if a mother is unable to provide these things because she is depressed or anxious, a baby may suffer the consequences.

So, here are some of the risks for babies and children whose mothers suffer from UNTREATED antenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety:

  • Pregnant women who are depressed are less likely to take adequately care of themselves and their unborn babies.
  • Preterm labor has been linked to depression and anxiety in pregnant mothers.
  • Preeclampsia has been linked to depression and anxiety in pregnant mothers.
  • Depression and anxiety during pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight in babies.
  • Babies whose mothers were depressed or anxious during pregnancy are more likely to have eating and sleeping challenges and are more likely to be difficult to soothe.
  • Attachment and bonding may be negatively affected and this can have an impact on a child’s ability to form healthy relationships during school-aged years and on through adulthood.
  • Fathers, whose partners are depressed, are also more likely to develop depressive symptoms in the postpartum period. If this happens, neither parent may be able to attend to the emotional needs of their newborn.
  • Mothers who have postpartum depression tend to spend less time engaging in eye contact, mirroring facial and voice expressions, and casual play with their babies. All of these activities are important for bonding and attachment.

With this said, we know that other caregivers, such as a father, grandparent, other family member, friends, and nannies can provide the emotional reciprocity that is needed if and when a mom is temporarily unable. While a baby needs its mother first and foremost, that child will absolutely be okay if, temporarily, it is getting all of its physical and emotional needs met by someone else. What matters most, truly, is that mom gets the support that she needs to feel well so that she can care for her babe in the ways that are important to both of them.

So, moms, if you are suffering, please get help. For you and for your little one.

Kate Kripke, LCSW

Suffering Postpartum Depression? Announcing Daily Hope

postpartum depressionI am so excited to launch a new feature here at Postpartum Progress. It’s called Daily Hope. This service is specifically for those of you who are currently suffering from postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, antenatal depression or related illnesses.

I know that many of you don’t have access to support groups or the best specialists. You may not have people around you that understand postpartum depression. Need some extra hope each day from people who DO get it? Someone to shine a light towards the end of the tunnel? That’s Daily Hope! Sign up at the link below, and starting on Monday, January 17th, you will receive an email each day with some inspiration and encouragement for getting through perinatal mood & anxiety disorders (PMADs).

The messages will come from me, as well as leading authors and bloggers on PMADs, including:

So! To sign up for Postpartum Progress Daily Hope, click here.

Have a friend that you think could use this, or a patient? Be sure to let them know!! If you join, you can opt out (unsubscribe) at any time, and you are not required to give your last name.

Oh, and for you survivors and clinicians out there, if you’d like to join the people listed above and share your own favorite quote or other item of inspiration, send it to me at stonecallis [at] msn [dot] com, and your item may be included in a future Daily Hope email. Be sure to include a link to your blog or website in what you send to me, so that I’ll be able to link back to you if you’d like. (One caveat: Don’t send me a tidbit where you are trying to sell something, with the exception of course of your book. If you do, there’s no chance that it will be included in Daily Hope emails.)

I’m looking forward to providing some daily inspiration for everyone out there who is suffering at this very minute.

Daily Hope and Postpartum Progress the Blog are services of Postpartum Progress Inc. the Nonprofit, which is working to vastly improve the support and services available to women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, primarily through the use of technology.

The 21-Day Self-Care Challenge: Day 13

LIVING Self-Care

Back for the 21-day self-care challenge? Aren’t you proud?!

Like most women, you’re an expert multi-tasker, priding yourself on answering the phone, stirring the stew, juggling the baby, and writing a check–all at once. But we’re fooling ourselves about multi-tasking’s effectiveness. Research shows that efficiency increases when we really tune into the process.

Experiment with this by practicing mindfulness, the antidote to tuned-out multi-tasking. Pick a treat that you really relish; perhaps chocolate or the freshest piece of fruit. Sniff the aroma. Feel your mouth salivate. Touch the tiniest bit to your tongue. Is it sweet, salty, cold, juicy? Hold the first bite in your mouth for a moment. Swirl it around, note the feeling as your teeth begin to chew. Continue to consume the treat slowly, zeroed in on every sensation.

Practice this mantra: “Live in the moment, do what matters most, forget the rest.”

Copyright © 2010 by Ann Dunnewold and Diane Sanford, authors of Life Will Never Be The Same: The Real Mom's Postpartum Survival Guide.

The 21-Day Self-Care Challenge: Day 11

LIVING Self-Care

Half way through the 21-day self-care challenge!

Few things in life are more important than valuing ourselves. Yet maybe you heard messages when you were a child, such as “be humble. Nice girls don’t brag. Don’t be full of yourself. “ If you tune into your personal resources, you will have the inner belief and fortitude to handle the hurdles life inevitably brings.

Most women, even if they feel competent and strong, balk at the idea of actually recording their strengths in black and white. Today, challenge that early childhood programming by writing at least five things you love about yourself. Keep a note card nearby if the traits you want to claim don’t immediately come to mind. Tuck the card into your wallet or tape it on your mirror. Review it daily.

Today’s mantra: “I love me, with all my strengths and human faults.”

Copyright © 2010 by Ann Dunnewold and Diane Sanford, authors of Life Will Never Be The Same: The Real Mom's Postpartum Survival Guide.