Effects of Untreated Perinatal Depression/Anxiety

Risks of untreated perinatal depression/anxiety can harm a parent’s interaction with their baby, possibly impairing a baby’s ability to form a secure attachment. Not every parent or child will experience the full range of effects, but untreated depression/anxiety may contribute to the following in parents and their children:

Effects On The Parent

  • Being less sensitive or responsive to their baby’s needs
  • Feeling out of sync with their child, being withdrawn or being unable to play with their baby
  • Avoiding the child and/or partner
  • Providing inconsistent or intrusive parenting
  • Expressing little positive emotion toward the child, such as smiling
  • Showing more irritability or aggression
  • Experiencing increased conflict in the marriage or relationship
  • Having difficulty knowing how to best soothe their child or baby
  • Trouble breastfeeding
  • Suicide

The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)

The EPDS is a 10-item, assessment tool that takes about 5 minutes to complete. This scale has been validated with a number of research studies which have shown the tool to be a reliable measure of depression during the postpartum period. It is generally accepted that a score of 10 is possible PPD and a score of 12 is probable PPD.

Download: Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale 1 (EPDS)

Effects On Infants and Children

  • Reduced duration of gestation, and preterm birth (depression and anxiety during pregnancy)
  • Low birth weight (depression and anxiety during pregnancy)
  • Insecure attachment/delayed bonding/withdrawn infant
  • Excessive crying, difficult to soothe
  • Developmental delays in motor skills: lifting head, rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking
  • Developmental delays in cognitive skills: the mental skills that guide how knowledge is obtained.
  • Hyperactivity
  • Conduct disorders (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and aggressive behaviors such as conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder)
  • Increased likelihood of having a mood disorder
  • Increased physical aggression towards others
  • Poor social and academic performance
  • Studies show that by age 4 or 5, some of these children show impaired cognitive and intellectual performance
  • By age 11, children of mothers who had untreated postpartum depression had lower IQ scores than the youngsters of mothers without postpartum depression. They also had greater problems with attention and mathematical reasoning.

If you or a loved one had a medical crisis like cancer or a broken arm, you would certainly prioritize immediate treatment for yourself or a family member. Perinatal depression/anxiety are dangerous illnesses that can have long-term, devastating effects for you and your family. Please don’t allow inexpert advice, isolation, shame, finances or embarrassment deter you from your journey back to health. You deserve to feel better. 

Recovery is a phone call away, please contact Kim Kertsburg, LCSW today.