Our mothers or aunts or even grandmothers always seem to advocate that pregnancy should indeed be a happy phase. This is in fact not without reason! Numerous studies have proven that a mother’s mental health both during the pregnancy and after the delivery is crucial to the health and wellbeing of the baby.
Research shows that babies who do not get enough physical affection and nurturing in their early months of life exhibit a number of negative side effects from delayed cognitive development, lowered interest in exploration and learning, and disrupted sleep patterns. For some women the newness or rather strangeness of the whole pregnancy experience can be quite overwhelming.
When such feelings go overboard it can lead to what is known as antenatal depression or depression that sets in during the pregnancy stage. The symptoms of antenatal depression could range from feeling low or numb, loss of confidence, feeling helpless, feeling teary and emotional, angry, irritable or resentful towards others, change in sleep patterns, appetite, lack of interest or energy or finding it difficult to cope. The key thing to understand is that the longer such feelings are kept under wraps the more harm it will do to the developing baby. The physiological and emotional effects on the baby can last well into school age.
Antenatal depression should be addressed as this could only get worse once the baby is born. Quite similar but perhaps more serious is the postnatal condition postpartum depression that comes into play with the entry of the tiny new human. Around 10% to 20% of new mothers seem to be affected by postpartum depression or ‘baby blues’ so this is not as rare as we think it is. This condition is one that needs medical attention as it has been proven that the mothers’ depressive tendencies can greatly affect the emotional state of babies.
Postpartum depression will most likely start a few days right after delivery and may last for weeks or even months in the most severe of cases. Adapting to the newborn baby routine is sure to bring about a plethora of emotions but when the depression is persistent it can have a rather devastating effect on the baby’s overall mental health. The risk of long -term problems are also higher in babies exposed to the mother’s depression like social anxiety or high stress levels throughout their life.
The most influential symptoms of postpartum depression that affects the child directly is the mother’s eventual inability to care for her baby. Everything is new to the baby so if the mother is unavailable emotionally or mentally to help it overcome the initial fear then the bond will suffer. Prompt treatment can help you manage your antenatal or postpartum depression symptoms and help you give the best possible start for the baby right from when it is in the womb and thereby strengthening the mother-baby bond.
Physical development problems are another possible issue that will affect the child as the mother plays the most important role in encouraging growth and development and for the baby to adequately meet physical and mental milestones. Coordination and muscle development will surely be affected if the mom isn’t there to encourage the baby’s physical growth. The mother needs to be present both physically and mentally to instill basic confidence in the baby. The foundation for this is formed during a baby’s first year of life and a depressed mother will be unable to fulfil this need entirely.
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