For many people, postpartum depression is still a highly taboo subject. Because women are supposed to be overjoyed and grateful after their babies are born, any emotions that don’t fit this narrative are often discredited or hidden away for a woman’s fear of being called a “bad mother.”
However, postpartum depression is more common than you may think, and hiding away feelings and concerns can actually cause long-lasting harm for everyone in a new mother’s family — not just herself. This disorder is not just something that a woman will “get over” as time goes by; postpartum depression dangers are more serious than many think and can cause great problems for a new family.
More awareness and understanding is needed to help women suffering from postpartum depression to get the help they need, guilt-free. That’s why we’ve detailed some of the greatest effects of postpartum depression here to help people understand the actual severity of this mental health crisis. Left untreated, postpartum depression can cause issues for a whole family (and, by extension, their surrounding community) for years to come.
Remember: Postpartum depression affects every person differently. The best source for information about all aspects of this disorder, including psychological effects of postpartum depression, will always be your doctor. The information in this article should not be taken as medical advice.
Effects of Postpartum Depression on the Mother
Becoming a new mother is often hard, but those difficulties are magnified when a woman develops postpartum depression. The effects of postpartum depression on the mother are probably the hardest felt; she is the one experiencing the side effects of not only her mental condition, but the physical experience of pregnancy and giving birth and the emotional stresses of caring for a newborn or making an adoption plan— all at the same time.
While every woman is affected by postpartum depression in a different way, some of the short-term effects of postpartum depression on a mother include:
- Mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Loss of appetite
- Inability to sleep (or sleeping too much)
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- And more
These side effects of postpartum depression can obviously make caring for a newborn difficult, should a woman choose to parent her child. Left untreated, postpartum depression dangers can grow into long-term problems. A new mother may find that depression:
- Makes it difficult to bond with her child
- Causes her to withdraw from family and friends
- Prevents her from enjoying the activities and hobbies she used to
- Makes her feel like a bad mother
- Causes anxiety and panic attacks
- Makes her want to harm herself or her baby
- And more
Clearly, these issues can cause huge problems for a new mother’s relationships with family and friends, as well as her own mental and physical health. In extreme cases, it can even lead to bodily harm or death. For this reason, treating postpartum depression early and effectively is incredibly important. Women who experience postpartum depression are more likely to struggle with depression later in life, especially if it is left untreated.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your child, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255) right away.
Postpartum Depression Effects on a Child
Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect the woman with the condition; the effects of postpartum depression can be felt by her children, as well.
The period after which a baby is born is the most vulnerable time in their life. They cannot care for themselves and so depend upon their parents to provide everything they need. But, if a mother is suffering from postpartum depression, a baby may not get the care and affection he or she needs to prosper during their first few months of life. For this reason, postpartum depression effects on child development are very real and possible.
In addition, research has found that long-term effects of postpartum depression on children exist, as well. Children of mothers who suffered from postpartum depression were found to:
- Be four times more likely to have behavioral problems
- Be two times more likely to have low math scores
- Be seven times more likely to suffer from depression themselves later in life
While studies hesitate to say postpartum depression cause these difficulties, it’s important not to ignore the correlation. It only makes sense that when a mother suffers from depression, her children suffer, too — both her newborn and any other older children. Postpartum depression has been liked to anger issues and withdrawal in infancy; aggression; anxiety and lower IQ scores in school-age children; and drug use, alcoholism and ADHD in teenagers.
Effects of Postpartum Depression on the Family — Especially the Father
As mentioned above, the struggles that a mother goes through when facing postpartum depression have the potential to affect her relationships with her loved ones. We’ve described the effects of postpartum depression on the mother and child — but it’s important to remember the role that a new mother’s spouse will play in this journey, as well.
When considering the effects of postpartum depression on the family, it’s important to know that fathers can develop postpartum depression, as well. Research shows that up to 1 in 10 new fathers can experience depression during the pregnancy and after birth. In addition, if a man’s spouse is experiencing postpartum depression, that increases his chance of developing the mood disorder, too.
Even if a father does not experience clinical, diagnosable depression, seeing his spouse go through the trials of postpartum depression can affect him in many ways. If a father does not understand what a new mother is going through and is not supportive of her during this vulnerable time, the postpartum depression effects on their marriage or relationship can be severe. He may be angry about the newfound distance between him and his spouse, frustrated that she is not “bouncing back” from childbirth as expected and confused about what is happening to her when they both need to rely on each other the most.
Other family members can experience these emotions, too, and these long-term effects of postpartum depression can be devastating to relationships after a new child is born. That’s why it’s so important to express patience, love and understanding during this time — no matter what happens.
Clearly, postpartum depression is a disorder that affects more than just the woman who has given birth. Knowing the postpartum depression dangers if the disorder is left untreated is the first step in making sure that your family is ready for whatever may come after you give birth. Remember: Your doctor is always there to help you, should you need them.