A recent (March 2018) ongoing population-based study by the British organization ALSPAC (British Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children; Netsi, et al) has reported findings relating to the lingering effects of postpartum depression on children. While a father’s depression can have negative effects, the most pronounced problems for children are correlated with the severity of their mother’s degree of depression.
The 2018 Netsi Study
Netsi et al delivered their findings in the paper Postpartum Depression and its Long-Term Impact on Children. The research team studied the offspring of women during the 18-year period following delivery. The study compared the children of women with moderate and severe depression versus women whose depression was neither persistent nor severe.
The study’s findings were striking: for children between the ages of three-four with mothers who experienced more severe postpartum depression, there was a four-fold level of increased risk for behavioral health problems. For the same group of children, the risk level increased to seven-fold by the time they were 18 years old.
Modifiable Risk Through Professional Treatment
Insofar as depression is a treatable condition, the new research findings relating to postpartum depression point to focusing on helping mothers in the period after delivery as well as during pregnancy. Based on research findings, there is evidence that both medications and evidence-based therapy (either individually or used together) can be effective tools for treating depression. If a mother’s symptoms can be reduced to a state of remission, then the subsequent potential adverse behavioral effects on her children will be reduced.
Becoming pregnant can trigger and exacerbate a host of concerns: worries about being a new mother, worries about a developing baby’s health, worries about relationships, and financial concerns can all trigger bouts of depression. Statistics show that up to 15% of all pregnant women experience prenatal depression, and that of the ones who do suffer from it, 50% go on to experience postpartum depression as well. As expectant mothers experience very significant hormonal and physical changes, the biological and psychological pressures can add up to a greater risk for depression during pregnancy and beyond.
If you or a loved one is suffering from postpartum depression, it is highly advisable to seek treatment from a qualified mental health practitioner as soon as possible.