Moms Who Suffer This Post-Pregnancy Complication May Be Less Close to Their Kids

Eugene Kocherva/Shutterstock

For new moms who suffer from postpartum depression, the condition can be debilitating. It leaves you exhausted, anxious, moody, lethargic, and most of all, fearful that you'll never be able to bond with your baby. Luckily, therapy and medications can help moms start to feel like themselves again, but a new study confirms that our fears about bonding with our kids are not unfounded. In fact, the damaging impact of postnatal depression can hurt our relationships with our kids long after they're grown. It can even harm our abilities to bond with our grandchildren.


The American Psychological Association estimates that one in seven new moms experiences symptoms of postnatal depression; however, very little is known about the long-term effects of the disorder. To dig deeper into this issue, Dr. Sarah Myers and a team from the University of Kent surveyed 305 mothers from the UK and US, who were an average of 60 years old. Each of the women had an average of 2.2 children, who are currently between the ages of 8 and 48, and many of the women also had grandkids.

What Dr. Myers found is that women who reported having symptoms of postpartum depression after the births of their kids also reported lower-quality relationships with all of their children, especially the kids who "triggered" their depression. The worse the symptoms of depression were, the more strained their relationships with their kids were, even into adulthood. And participants who had grandkids reported feeling less emotionally close with their grandchildren as well.

More from CafeMom: 10 Moms Reveal What Postpartum Depression Really Feels Like

For moms like me who've had postpartum depression, this seems like the worst possible news. Depression already comes with a heaping dose of guilt and shame, because you know you shouldn't feel the way you're feeling, even though it's completely out of your control. And the last thing you want is for this illness to disrupt what should be one of your closest relationships, or to have the specter of your former depression still hanging around when your kids have kids.

Luckily, that's exactly why this research exists. It's not meant to shame moms or make them feel even worse about being depressed. In a press release, a spokesperson for the University of Kent says Dr. Myers and her team "hope the findings will encourage the ongoing development and implantation of preventative measures to combat PND [postnatal depression]" and "not only improve mother-child relationships, but also future grandmother-grandchild relationships."

Despite the huge number of women diagnosed with postnatal depression each year, only about 15–20 percent of them actually get help. The reasons for that are varied. In a Baby Center survey of over 1,500 women, moms pointed to guilt and stigma, misinformation, and the challenges of identifying their own illnesses as their main reasons for suffering in silence. But studies like this one shine a much-needed light on the importance of developing better ways to diagnose and treat postpartum depression and making sure more moms have access to the care they need. The more we learn about how this illness affects us and our kids, the easier it will be for all of us to fight it.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety, you can check your symptoms online at Postpartum Support International or contact their help line at 1(800)-944-4773.

Read More >