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Postpartum Depression Impacts Infant Care

Depressed moms less likely to breast-feed, play with new baby, study finds

WEDNESDAY, March 8, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who suffer symptoms of depression after childbirth are less likely to breast-feed, play with, read to, or otherwise interact with their newborns, new research shows.

The nationwide study, by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Columbia University, included nearly 4,900 mothers from 15 pediatric care centers.

It found that about 44 percent of mothers with postpartum depressive symptoms were likely to be breast-feeding at two to four months after the birth of their baby, compared with nearly 57 percent of mothers without depressive symptoms.

Other findings included:

  • At two to four months following birth, 87.4 percent of mothers with depressive symptoms were likely to play with their infants at least once a day, compared with 91.9 percent of mothers with no symptoms of depression;
  • At the same point in time, 22.4 percent of mothers with depressive symptoms were likely to show their newborns books, compared with 28.2 percent of mothers without symptoms of depression.

However, depressive symptoms did not seem to affect a mother's baby-related safety practices, such as placing the infant in the correct sleeping position or lowering the temperature of the home water heater. Overall, adherence to safety practices was high among all the mothers in the study.

"Maternal depressive symptoms are very common in early infancy. We found nearly 18 percent of the mothers in our study reported experiencing some symptoms of depression two to four months after the birth of their children," study corresponding author Dr. Cynthia S. Minkovitz, a professor in the department of population and family health sciences at Bloomberg, said in a prepared statement.

"These symptoms clearly have an unfavorable impact on a mother's parenting practices, particularly those that involve active engagement with the child. Our results highlight the importance of screening new mothers for depressive symptoms," Minkovitz said.

The study appears in the March issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about postpartum depression.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, March 8, 2006
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