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Postpartum Depression and how it affects children

Some women begin to feel anxious and depressed within a couple of days of parturition. Many also experience crying spells for no apparent reason, have trouble making decisions and sleeping, lose their appetite, and become angry at their new-born, other children, or spouse. These feelings, often mentioned as the baby blues, typically last a couple of days to 2 weeks. The baby blues, affecting up to 80% of mothers, are usually not severe enough to need treatment.

On the other hand, postpartum depression involves intense feelings of hysteria, hopelessness, or sadness that last for much longer, affecting the mother’s day-to-day life. Women who have postpartum depression can develop bipolar disorder symptoms 1 to three weeks after childbirth, but the onset is often anytime during the first year after childbirth. Postpartum, or postnatal, depression is estimated to affect 10% of girls in wealthier countries, and a good higher percentage in less wealthy countries.


Risk factors of postpartum depression

Some women are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Women who experience bipolar disorder during pregnancy tend to be at a higher risk of depression after parturition. About 50% of women with postpartum depression experienced depression before or during pregnancy. Other mental disorders during pregnancy, like anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, can increase the risk of postpartum depression. Risk factors of bipolar disorder include a scarcity of emotional support; medical complications during childbirth, like premature delivery; and mixed feelings about the pregnancy.


Causes of postpartum depression

Although the exact reason for postpartum depression isn’t known, it’s believed that hormonal changes may play a role. Researchers suspect that changes in 2 genes may play a role in increasing the danger of developing postpartum depression symptoms. The belief is supported by findings from a 2013 study. These genes are thought to be involved in the activity of the hippocampus and appear to reply to estrogen. It’s this rapid change in hormone levels that’s believed to be associated with postpartum depression.



Effects on children

It causes long-term effects and persistent impact on children. To gauge the effect, the researchers used data from the British Avon Longitudinal Study of oldsters and youngsters.

  • Evidence suggests that both persistent and severe postpartum depression increase the danger of adverse outcomes in children. There’s a documented link between postpartum depression and higher rates of depression in children during the later teen years (16 to 18 years old).

  • These findings suggest extending the universal screening for depression altogether, pregnant women to be screened beyond the pregnancy, possibly up to a year after delivery, and through baby wellness visits.