Friday, September 04, 2009

Postnatal depression and suicide

Postnatal depression occurs in about 19% of new mothers and can lead to thoughts of killing oneself. Researchers from Boston University studied 32 new mothers who were feeling suicidal. Those women with the most severe problems experienced more sleeping and eating problems, felt more anxious, had more changeable moods, had experienced a greater loss of self and felt greater guilt about their experience. They had poorer self esteem, felt they were less prepared for mothering and expected to have a poorer-quality relationship with their children. They were "less able to demonstrate sensitivity and reciprocity with their infants during unstructured interactions ... less aware of their babies' social signals and showed poorer ability to respond to them consistently." The women's children showed less smiling, more fussing and less engagement with their mothers. Most of the women with suicidal thoughts had held jobs before having their children and had moved from a predictable and controlled environment where they felt competent to the unpredictability of looking after a newborn child. Interventions for these women could include

  • The mother structuring her day
  • Identifying tasks that need to be accomplished
  • Offering guidance into how to attune to the baby's needs
  • Alerting a spouse or other family member to step in when they feel most vulnerable
  • Gaining support from a person close by in moments of high anxiety

You can find out more about this research at

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