According to studies depression in mothers is far more detrimental to babies than use of antidepressants. Many women suffer from mild depression during the first week after delivery; it is commonly known as Postpartum blues or Baby blues. It is usually time limited but may progress to postpartum depression if the symptoms persist for over four weeks. The mother is easily irritable, loses interest in all activities, and may have negative feelings towards the infant or express concerns about her ability to care for her child. Postpartum depression lasts longer and requires counselling and medications. Without treatment it may become worse.
But studies have shown that women suffering from post-partum depression are afraid to take antidepressants because they are breast-feeding and feel that antidepressants may not be safe for their babies.
But a new study has shown that the weight of the babies of breastfeeding mothers who were on antidepressants was not affected unless the mother was depressed for 2 months or longer. During the study the weight of babies whose mothers suffered from depression for more than 2 months and less than 2 months were compared to the normal birth weight of the babies of mothers who were not depressed. The depressed mothers were on anti-depressants, which were started either during early pregnancy or in the six months following pregnancy.
Researchers found that the average weight was the same for babies with normal weight and babies of mothers who suffered depression for less than two months.
But those infants whose mothers suffered from depression for more than two months weighed significantly less as compared to babies with normal weight.
This shows that the use of antidepressants by the breast fed mother does not affect the child’s physical development. However, there are studies, which show that maternal depression in itself can be harmful to the developing baby as depression usually causes the mothers to underfeed their baby and neglect their baby.
All these findings emphasize the importance of screening for depression and treating post-partum depression. At the same time it is also essential to make the mothers aware about the safety of anti-depressants so that they do not hesitate to get treated for postpartum depression.