Postpartum Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

Mothers with postpartum depression and suicidal thoughts experience the mother-infant relationship as a negative experience, have more mood disturbances and cognitive distortions, have low self-esteem and perceive themselves to be ineffective mothers.


These are the findings of a new two-year study by Ruth Paris, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Clinical Practice at Boston University’s School of Social Work, Rendelle E. Bolton, a graduate student at the BU School of Social Work and M. Katherine Weinberg, Ph.D., a psychologist and an infant development specialist. The study “Postpartum Depression, Suicidality and Mother-Infant Interactions appears in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health online.

The researchers worked with clinicians and mothers involved in a home-based mother-infant intervention program that specializes in PPD, targeting issues that might interfere with the mother-infant relationship.

53% of the 32 participating women were considered “Highly suicidal” by the team.

“Examining maternal perceptions, the researchers found that mothers with suicidal ideas had poorer self esteem than women who had few suicidal thoughts and experienced less distress in the parenting role. The high suicidality group also perceived they were less prepared for mothering and expected a poor relationship with their infants.”

I’m not exactly sure why this is news. Why would anyone expect women who are highly suicidal to feel like confident mothers who enjoy interacting with their babies?

Feels like it belongs in the “It’s-interesting-but-we-knew-that-already” file.

The one piece that is impressive and should be noted by all clinicians and healthcare practitioners is the very high rate of suicidal thoughts associated with postpartum depression.

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