Maternal depression affects mother-baby relationships

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In a study funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), researchers at the Maudsley Biomedical Research Center (BRC) examined whether depression, before or during pregnancy, affects the mother-child relationship. The research was published today in BJPsych open.

The researchers examined the quality of mother-infant interactions eight weeks and 12 months after birth in three groups of ; healthy women, women with clinically significant depression during pregnancy, and women with a history of lifelong depression but healthy pregnancies.

The study used a sample of 131 women: 51 without current or past depression, 52 with depression referred to South London perinatal psychiatric services and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, and 28 “history-only” mothers with a history of depression but no current diagnosis.

Quality of interaction

At both weeks and twelve months, mothers and infants in the groups with depression and only a history showed a lower interaction. Specifically, at eight weeks, 62% in the group of mothers with depression during pregnancy and 56% in the group of mothers with only a history of depression scored in the lowest relationship quality category, where they are recommended. therapeutic interventions, compared with 37% in the healthy group. All groups of mothers and babies improved their interaction quality between 8 weeks and 12 months, according to the researchers, which indicates that over time all mothers and their babies may be more attuned.

At six days, newborns from mothers in depression groups and with only history had decreased social-interactive behavior, which, along with maternal socioeconomic difficulties, also predicted a reduction in the quality of interaction, while postnatal depression no.

Dr Rebecca Bind, lead author and associate researcher at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, says: “Our findings suggest that perinatal mental health professionals should support not only women with depression during pregnancy, but also pregnant women with a history of depression, as they may also be at risk for interaction difficulties.Future research should try to understand why a history of depression , despite a healthy perinatal period, can affect the developing relationship. “

Lead author Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London and a perinatal psychiatrist consultant for the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“We recommend that health care providers provide pregnant women at risk of interaction difficulties with examples of positive care behaviors and ways to engage their babies and understand their needs, which could be incorporated into parenting and childbirth classes and also suggest that interventions that can help mother-baby interaction should be more widely available, such as video feedback, where a clinician and mother discuss which behaviors work best to attract and comfort the baby. structured mother-baby activities such as art and singing groups. This is especially important because we know that the early years are vital to future mental health and well-being. “

The relationship between mothers and babies was assessed using Crittenden’s experimental index of child-adult relationships, which assesses “dyadic synchrony,” a term that describes the quality of the relationship as a whole. The researchers analyzed three-minute interaction films filmed at eight weeks and 12 months postnatal. Mothers played with their babies while the researchers rated the relationship based on seven aspects of behavior: facial expression, vocal expression, position and body contact, affection and arousal, turn contingencies, control, and choice of activity. The researchers thank the women and their babies who participated in the PRAM-D study and everyone on the study team who recruited, collected, and analyzed data.


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Citation: Mother Depression Affects Mother-Baby Relationships (2021, May 25) Retrieved May 25, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-mothers-depression-impacts-mother-infant -relationships.html

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