Having ‘baby blues’ after your new baby comes home is common. Being responsible for the tiny, helpless life is overwhelming. The amount of work such a tiny creature requires is astonishing. Most women feel at times that the world is on their shoulders and that they are just not good enough to cope with it all. This emotional roller-coaster lasts for a few weeks and then both mommy and baby adjust and start enjoying each other. But, one in five women sinks deeper into postpartum depression, with potentially catastrophic consequences to their babies. According to the latest study by scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, children of depressed mothers grow to be shorter than babies of healthy mothers.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression can last for years. It makes a new mom feel anxious, worthless, exhausted and inadequate. These negative feelings can progress to such an extent that she stops eating, cannot sleep, starts feeling paranoid or frantic. She is not able to care for herself, and even less for her newborn baby.
Mothers going through postpartum depression are often ashamed of being less than adequate and try to hide their feelings. Unfortunately, without treatment, depression not only hurts her, but affects baby’s physical and mental health. Depressed mothers often need to be hospitalized.
The link between the postpartum depression and stunted growth
Johns Hopkins scientists worked with the data on more than 6000 mothers and babies. They found that mothers who had severe depression during the first nine months of their babies’ life had 50 percents more likelihood of having short children by the time they reached age five.
Scientists believe that this stunted growth is the result of mothers’ postpartum depression and their inability to adequately feed their children or to notice that children are getting ill and do something about it.
This was not the first study to note the serious consequences of untreated severe postpartum depression. Most researchers agree that the reason for such drastic consequence to child’s development is poor nutrition, lack of or inadequate breastfeeding, poor sleep and insufficient bond with a child.
Researchers also note that lack of growth in children is not important in itself, but it is the best indicator of child’s general development. Their findings show that children of mothers who suffered mild depression and who managed to cope, managed to catch up with their peers by the time they were 5.
It is crucial for new mothers to recognize signs of postpartum depression and to ask their doctor for help. Help is also needed on other fronts: taking care for the new baby is not easy and it is OK to ask for help. Your life now evolves around the baby, but you are no good to the baby if you are not feeling good. Go for a walk, find time to exercise and have some fun. Make sure you eat well and get enough sleep. Easier said than done? Sure, but that is why we have husbands, mothers, sisters, mothers-in-law. They are all more than ready to jump in. Don”t try to be a supermom. Being a mom is difficult enough.
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