Two faces of depression: Effects of maternal depression on mothers and children

Two faces of depression: Effects of maternal depression on mothers and children

Maternal depression has been associated with serious risks for the development of a child’s emotional and mental health. Featuring prominently in the list of the most common mental health disorders, depression is highly prevalent among women of childbearing age. In fact, it is recognized as a devastating public health concern that not only affects mothers but also children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted that nearly one in nine women is affected by depression before, during and after pregnancy. Afflicted by depression, the agonizing symptoms of maternal depression causes debilitating health issues that have the potential to impair a mother’s competence in adequately taking care of her child.

Maternal depression inflicts a number of depressive symptoms, such as the overwhelming feeling of sadness, emptiness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, etc. Moreover, the emotional numbness caused by maternal depression leads to loss of interest in hobbies and activities once pleasurable,  problems in cognitive-behavioral skills, extreme tiredness, etc. that disrupt the daily life.

This, in turn, afflicts problems on the child during all the stages of pregnancy. Therefore, it is essential to ensure adequate care to mothers and mom-to-be. During the life-changing phases of pregnancy and bringing up a child, a woman usually goes through a sea of emotions.

In the light of the above, it is essential to lend an ear and adequate support to a woman during such critical phases to avoid the worsening of her condition. Consequently, maternal depression is associated with the devastation of the normal functioning of life, relationship troubles, stressful life events, and an increased risk of comorbidity along with the risk of developing other mental health issues.

Children of depressed mother grow emotionally vulnerable

This association between maternal depression and mother-reported problems related to their children has been a subject matter of number of studies conducted over the decades. Some of the studies have specified that maternal depression does not cause any negative influence on the infant or restrict mothers from providing adequate attention and care to their children. On the contrary, other studies pinpoint the close association between maternal depression and the detrimental symptoms witnessed in their children in terms of mental and physical health, interpersonal behaviors, etc.

The children of mothers with maternal depression showcase many of the signs of vulnerabilities, such as difficult temperament, insecure attachment, heightened emotionality, severe aggression, etc. This affects their cognitive, intellectual and academic performance. They tend to display several other psychological symptoms, such as lower self-worth and self-blame.

Past studies have documented how maternal depression is associated with inefficiency and ineffectiveness in the functioning of a mother. Depressed mothers are found to be less sensitive toward their growing child.

Maternal depression severely affects parenting self-efficacy

The mother-infant dyad stands the increased chance of being compromised when mothers fail to fulfill the special needs of their newborn due to the challenges and uncertainties inflicted by a mental illness. As a result, the relationship of parenting self-efficacy in terms of ability to perform the numerous tasks associated with parenting among mothers with maternal depression is rife with compromises. Such mothers are found to be affected by the high levels of anxiety, depression, distress, marital turbulence, etc.

Some of the empirical findings suggest that a mother’s depression is significantly linked with disrupted and less positive parenting. As witnessed among the never depressed mothers, the level of parenting is not likely to improve to the same level among women suffering from maternal depression.

Likewise, coupled with anhedonia, women going through maternal depression are more likely to neglect their health and engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking or drinking, to relieve mental distress. They may witness poor appetite or sleep disturbances, which raises concern for fetal development during pregnancy and poor parenting during the childrearing phase.

Proper treatment imperative to treat depression

Depression is a chronic recurring health issue that is quite common during and after pregnancy. However, treatment or remission can help in minimizing the negative effects on the child and mothers. It can also positively influence the outcome.

If you know someone who is suffering from depression, do not hesitate from asking help. At the Arizona Depression Helpline, we can help you in finding the most effective depression treatment programs in Arizona. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-233-3895 or chat online with our counselors to know about the top depression rehab centers in Arizona.