Postpartum depression affects 1 in 10 women and can be a hassle to those who suffer. But what about the children? How are they affected? Dr. Juan Gonzalez is a pediatrician at Riverbend Medical Group in Chicopee, Massachusetts. He sees on average 10-20 children per day ranging in age from newborn to 18 years. Gonzalez is very familiar with the symptoms of postpartum depression in mothers, however he became tuned in with the children of those parents suffering from this disorder. “Children feel what their parent feel, they stay so in sync with their mothers and the feelings they have are a reaction to their mothers,” states Gonzalez.
Postpartum depression is known to affect women but what is overshadowed, is the children. Studies show that children with mothers with postpartum depression will demonstrate early childhood problems such as social and academic functions. Those children are at least two to three times more likely to develop mood disorders and potentially adjust differently to their surroundings. Without the appropriate interaction from their mothers, infants are much fussier, more inactive, and have elevated stress.
“I have seen numerous accounts where infants are on different levels than other infants which can be considered normal but the question of postpartum depression is often my first consideration,” says Gonzalez when asked how often he sees infants that develop differently with mothers that suffer with postpartum versus those who do not. Unfortunately, the disorders that these children can develop do not change, they remain into adulthood.
Jeffrey Livingston is a psychotherapist at the Griswold Center in Palmer, Massachusetts. He sees many young adults who come from a broken childhood. Livingston states that “much of the issues I see go way back into childhood and can be stemmed from lack of interest from the mother.” Livingston feels that mothers with postpartum depression have a serious effect on their children simply because children can feel what their mother feels. “The children tend to sense tension, fear, anxiety, worry, sadness, and anger,” says Livingston.
Parents should be aware of what they can expect after pregnancy so disorders in children can be avoided. There are many services that assist new mothers and fathers but they should also create some level of services to help the children involved as well. Pediatricians like Dr. Gonzalez are noticing a pattern and is doing what he can do on his end to help the children even if it means getting a different authority to assist in his efforts.
For more resources on how to get help for postpartum depression, please contact your doctor or go online to Health and Human Services in Massachusetts.