Parenting is challenging, especially when it comes to care for a new born baby. It can take a toll on the parents who are already exhausted mentally as well as physically from having taken care of the baby. Now, research backs this belief.
According to a new research lead by researchers from University of Michigan, advanced depression symptoms are found in mothers whose infants are highly irritable. The study comprised 8,200 children and was published in the journal Academic Pediatrics. The study is the first–of–its–kind to explore the association between the extent of a baby’s prematurity, infant fussiness, and the seriousness of the depressive symptoms in the mother.
Fussiness and gestational age linked to maternal depression
The researchers found that compared to mothers who had very preterm infants without fussiness, mothers who had very preterm babies (born at 24-31 weeks) with fussiness were twice more likely to develop the symptoms of depression. On the other hand, mothers of full–term infants and mothers of irritable babies born moderate-late preterm (32-36 weeks gestation) were twice more likely to report moderate to severe symptoms of depression which was similar to moms of less fussy babies born at the same gestational age.
Senior author, Dr. Prachi Shah, a behavioral and developmental pediatrician at the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, Michigan, said that infant fussiness and gestational age influenced the risk of maternal depression. She further added that females with irritable infants born late preterm and full term were more likely to experience severe symptoms of maternal depression compared to females with fussy infants born very preterm. This was because parents of very premature babies received neonatal support and services, preparing them beforehand for the challenges of taking care of their baby.
Mothers of mildly preterm babies develop more susceptible to depression
The study findings emphasized that mothers taking care of infants with challenging temperaments may need extra support to deal with the emotional toll. Therefore, it is important to screen mothers on a regular basis to determine the presence of depressive symptoms. Moreover, this may be particularly crucial for mothers whose infants are born mildly preterm because depressive symptoms in them may be more intense. Dr. Shah added that though compared to babies born later, very preterm babies have a higher rate of morbidity, the perinatal care that their parents receive may act as a buffer against severe maternal depression.
Extreme preterm newborns are routinely taken care off in the neonatal ICU clinics where a specialized professional takes care of the vulnerabilities contributed by an early birth. When parents navigate home, they also receive substantial postnatal support with developmental follow up, recommendations for early intervention programs, home visits, and subsequent care in neonatal clinics. Nevertheless, in spite of this, if a mother experiences even mild depressive symptoms, immediate professional care should be sought before these progress to something more serious.
Other factors related to maternal depression
The odds of developing moderate to severe symptoms of depression were also associated with other maternal characteristics like low income, smoking, unmarried status, etc. Additionally, Hispanic ethnicity was associated with a lower risk of developing maternal depression while a higher risk of developing moderate to severe depressive symptoms was associated with African-Americans and Asians.
Self-reported questionnaires were used to assess the symptoms of maternal depression. The present study added to the earlier studies establishing that mothers of highly irritable infants have lower confidence and are more stressed out compared to mothers of infants who are less fussy.
Road to recovery
Depression in mothers can be caused due to various reasons such as a difficult pregnancy, stressful family conditions, low or no social support, birth complications, previous or family history of depression, being a young mother, difficulty in conceiving, etc. The current study adds having a preterm and fussy baby to the list of reasons.
However, all is not lost as depression is a treatable condition. If you think that you are feeling depressed or you see a loved one displaying the symptoms of depression, get in touch with Florida Depression Helpline. Our team of medical experts offers all the required depression help and support to assist you in overcoming the disorder. Call our 24/7 helpline 866-267–5177 or chat online with our counselor for more information about our depression programs and how you can achieve lasting recovery.