Impacts of Perinatal Mood Disorder
Depression can be a crippling mood disorder, not only for the person affected but for others involved in their life. Recently the National Center for Children in Poverty's Project THRIVE released a brief highlighting how a mother's depression, both pre- and post-natal, can have a significant impact on the cognitive, behavioral, social and emotional functioning of her child. Because of these impairments, children of mothers suffering from pre- or post-natal depression may experience delays in becoming school ready.
Neuroscience has shown that a healthy relationship between caregiver and child is imperative for an infant's brain to develop normally. The brief cites multiple studies that show how maternal depression can stop a mother from creating that critical relationship, leaving the child at risk for a myriad of developmental problems. Although scientists are not sure why, research shows that depression in pregnant women can lead to poor birth outcomes, poor birth weight, prematurity, and obstetric problems. Without intervention, this cascade of problems can result in a child starting school with so many challenges they almost inevitably fall behind.
Poverty is a major risk factor for maternal depression, due in part to related risk factors such as substance abuse, intimate partner violence, childhood abuse, and other life stressors. According to the report, estimated rates of perinatal depression range from five to 25 percent; but for low-income women and teen parents it increases to a staggering 40 to 50 percent, indicating that if you are poor and a new mother you have almost a one-in-two change of suffering from depression. The brief goes on to share how intervention and assistance with some of the factors that accompany poverty may aid in relieving the rate of perinatal depression.
Sadly, the percentage of women who seek treatment for perinatal depression is low. “The gap between the availability of good treatment for parents and the utilization of treatment is enormous – what we tolerate for depression, we would not tolerate for diabetes,” said Dr. William Beardslee, Academic Chair in the Department of Psychiatry for Children' Hospital Boston, who was quoted in the brief. Barriers to seeking treatment include social stigma, lack of access, and lack of detection.
The report offers suggestions for practitioners and policy makers on how to reduce these barriers, and includes a list of national and local resources. In L.A. County, Postpartum Support International (PSI) has an active chapter lead by Executive Vice President Kimberly Wong. Wong has also spearheaded the L.A. County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force, which is comprised of public and private umbrella organizations whose mission is to create an infrastructure in L.A. County to help break down the barriers that stop women from seeking treatment.