Postpartum Depression Effect on Children Development


Depression is one of the diseases that are associated with diseases that cause disability in women. Women who are pregnant and those who are in their childbearing stage are at a high risk of suffering from depression. Depression especially during the perinatal stage may have dangerous effects or consequences both to the women suffering from the condition and also the entire family members. Postpartum depression includes minor and major depressive occurrences, which happens either when one is pregnant or in the first few months after delivery. The major type of depression is a diverse medical syndrome where the remedy or treatment is indicated clearly while the description and management of minor depression are less clearly indicated (Kessler, 2003, pp. 5-13). This paper will examine the effects of postpartum on children’s development.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression, which also refers to postnatal depression, is one of the medical conditions that mostly affect females and sometimes men immediately after delivery. Postnatal depression happens or occurs in women in the first few months after childbearing. Symptoms of postpartum depression are as follows; reduced libido, tearfulness, sleeping trouble, fatigue, change of appetite, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and crying episodes. Risk factors that contribute to postpartum depression include past premenstrual dysphoric disorder, past major depression, insufficient social support, and psychosocial stress. Studies carried out in the past show that this condition happens in approximately 10 to 20 percent of women mostly in the first few months after bearing a child. Any women who experience postpartum depression always get into trouble about the health and welfare of her child. This is because the mother fears and gets negative thoughts or ideas on causing any harm to the child. This condition affects the ability of the woman on how she takes care of the child or baby. In case a woman suffers from severe postpartum depression, she might become suicidal and may think of killing the baby and young children. This act is not provoked by anger but by the wish of not leaving the children alone (Rockville, 1993, p. 10).

Postpartum depression causes and risk factors

There are no defined causes of postpartum depression but some of the factors that are considered to take part in its cause include; hormonal imbalance where the levels of the hormones like cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone decline radically after childbirth within 48 hours. Moreover, other causes may include women experiencing mental diseases before pregnancy or during the early stages of pregnancy. In addition, miscarriage, stillbirth, loss of employment, inadequate social support, and marriage conflict may also lead to the condition. The drastic alteration of hormones that go with pregnancy and childbearing may provoke depression in women. After delivery, mothers experience or face a rapid decline in progesterone and estrogen hormones levels. In addition, the level of thyroid hormones may also decline to result in depression and fatigue. These changes in the levels of the hormones together with the alteration in the immune system functioning, metabolism, and blood pressure that is experienced by new women all together contribute to causing postnatal depression. According to theories, mothers who are more susceptible to the above-mentioned hormonal changes are at a high risk of suffering from postnatal depression (O’Hara, Neunaber & Zekoski, 1984, p. 164).

Similarly, mothers who have just delivered also experience great changes, both emotional and physical. They might be putting up with the physical pain after pregnancy and giving birth. Moreover, they may also have hard times trying to reduce their weight, which might result in insecurities about their sexual and physical attractiveness. In addition, these women are also coping with their changes in lifestyles. For the first time, they might experience some difficulties when trying to adjust their lifestyles and the stress of having a new baby may also come in. Women with newborns mostly have their sleep-deprived and this may result in anxiousness and overwhelming about their capability to cater for their newborn appropriately. All these factors in one way or another can greatly contribute to and provoke the onset of postnatal depression (Help Guide, 2009, par.5).

Postpartum depression treatment

Treatments for women suffering from postpartum depression include counseling and sometimes therapy, remedy, or medication. The condition may worsen if there is no treatment provided for such women. Group or personal therapy is one of the most efficient treatments for postnatal depression. This is referred to as psychotherapy and it is mostly preferred because of the issues about taking medication during breastfeeding periods. In addition, there is hormone therapy which includes hormonal replacement like estrogen, which leads to lessening of postnatal depression. In case of family conflict, there is a need for marriage counseling that could be beneficial to restore family relationships hence adequate social support. In addition, in case of severe situations of postnatal depression such that the mother cannot cater for herself and the child, the best choice is to use antidepressants. The condition does not associate with the age of the woman or the total number of children she has delivered. Mostly, it occurs to women who lack adequate social and emotional support. Therefore, postpartum depression mostly comes due to mind, lifestyle, and body factors when they are combined. In reality, there are no women who have lifestyles and biological composition that is similar. Hence, their differences might be the reasons why some of the women suffer from the condition while others do not experience it. In addition, it may also help one to understand why some women are in a position to put up with the demands in life though it might be difficult for them to cope with the stress of a new infant. Therefore, treatments differ in depressed women (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2009, par. 16).

Effects of postpartum depression

Postnatal depression can affect the capability or ability of the child to function properly, including the capability of the mother to cater for herself and the infant. Children of mothers suffering from postpartum depression mostly develop problems in their behavior like temper tantrums, hyperactivity, sleep problems, and aggression. In addition, the cognitive development of the child is delayed and this is exhibited through delay in talking and walking when compared with other children of women without postpartum depression. In terms of social insecurity, children of mothers suffering from postpartum depression have hard times in obtaining secure and safe relationships since they find it difficult to get friends in school. Hence, they end up withdrawing from others, or they may end up acting in destructive manners. Worse of it all is when the children end up experiencing major depression in their early stages of life especially children belonging to mothers suffering from postpartum depression (Help Guide, 2009, par. 12).

The study concerned with the effects of postnatal depression on cognitive development is well looked into in the convection within the psychology of development. This developmental psychology looks into the long-term effects of the earliest experiences of the babies on the later development. Therefore, the postnatal depression of the mother affects the cognitive abilities of some children permanently. Several types of research carried out about postnatal depression indicate that the condition has a deleterious or deadly effect on the quality of the early relationship of the mother and the child. Naturally, these associations are mostly characterized by either withdrawal or maternal care that is hostile-intrusive. In such a situation, the child is normally disengaged and avoidant. Therefore, children of women who suffer from postnatal depression exhibit behavioral problems, insecurity attachment problems are very high, and cognitive development delays (Tronick, n.d, par.1).

Postpartum depression during the first year interferes with the emerging or upcoming abilities of the child to control its emotion and concentration; hence, perpetual or everlasting learning. For instance, Murray in the year 1992 carried out a study as cited by Murray & Cooper (1999) on a detailed assessment of the impact of postpartum depression of mothers on the intellectual development during the first year in a child’s life. In addition, she also studied through observations the child’s achievements of some of the cognitive development responsibilities in the infancy stage and the comprehending of the object’s durability or permanence. In her study or research, she targeted a community sample of mothers admitted to Cambridge maternity hospital in the postnatal wards. The women were screened or monitored at six weeks postnatal and then she interviewed them to verify the presence or existence of either the past or current depression based on the research diagnostic measures. The monitoring and interviewing process resulted in a sub-sample of 113 mothers that had either experienced or had not experienced a history of major depression, and those were had had or had not suffered from depression after delivery (Murray & Cooper, 1999, p.90).

According to the results obtained, the children whose mothers suffered postpartum depression were reliably or constantly more likely to fail the object durability responsibility compared to other infants at the age of 9 to 18 months. On the other hand, for women who had suffered from depression before birth but had not suffered from postpartum depression, their infants were not dependably different from the infants of good mothers. Moreover, during the earlier stage, women who were suffering from depression for the first time, their infants were most likely to perform poorly on the object durability responsibilities. Hence, the variation between such children and the children of the women suffering from postpartum depression and who had a history was no more statistically dependent at the one and half years evaluation (Murray & Cooper, 1999, p.91).

Contrary to the object durability or permanence responsibilities, the postpartum depression of the mothers did not have a major impact on the performance of the child on the standardized evaluations of the language and mental development. Both were mainly influenced or controlled by the social class and support of the family members. However, the experiences of the condition in the early stages of the mother seemed to enhance the impact of the social support or class. Therefore, the social class was mainly dependably associated with the performance of the child on these responsibilities only if the postpartum depression is present (Murray & Cooper, 1999, p.92).

Postnatal depression and attachment

Women suffering from postpartum depression have less interaction with their infants or babies. Such interactions are portrayed by such women failing to breastfeed their babies, read their babies and play with them. At sometimes, mothers experiencing postnatal depression are attentive and loving; however, at other times they become hostile, react negatively, and are unloving. Therefore, this irregularity or inconsistency affects the relationship or association process between the infant and the mother. Appropriate attachment or relationship between the child and mother offers a firm foundation in which the child can explore and understand nature and the world at large. This is because it helps the child feel secure and safe, thus assisting them to learn how to believe or trust other individuals. An appropriate relationship or attachment can be established if the mother responds consistently/regularly and comfortably to the emotional and physical needs of her child. For instance, if the child cries, the mother should soothe him or her immediately or if the child laughs, the mother ought to react positively. Therefore, it is clear that a baby who is attached insecurely or inappropriately is at a high risk of experiencing several developmental delays and hardships like emotional, social, and behavioral problems (Help Guide, 2009, par. 19).


Finally, the clinical implications are clear that postnatal depression is related to impairments of the emotional and cognitive development of the child. Therefore, it is essential to create and assess treatments, which can prevent these unpleasant results in the children of depressed mothers.

Reference list

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (2009). Postpartum depression. Web.

Help Guide, (2009). Postpartum Depression signs, symptoms, and help for new moms. Understand, Prevent and Resolve life’s challenges. Web.

Kessler, R., (2003). Epidemiology of women and depression. J Affect Disord, 74(1):5-13.

Murray, L. & Cooper, J., (1999). Links Between maternal depression and child cognitive. Postpartum Depression and Child Development. Web.

O’Hara, M., Neunaber, D., & Zekoski, E., (1984). Prospective study of postpartum depression: prevalence, course, and predictive factors. J Abnorm Psychol, 93(2):158-71.

Rockville, M., (1993). Depression Guideline Panel. Depression in Primary Care. Detection and Diagnosis. Clinical Practice Guideline: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.

Tronick, E., (2009). The long term impact of postpartum depression on child cognitive and socio-emotional development. Web.