Baby-Care Habits Reveal Post-Natal Depression
> 8/30/2007 11:52:42 AM

Conceiving, carrying and delivering a child is the most challenging series of acts undertaken by our species, and it may understandably lead to high anxiety for all involved, particularly the one giving birth. The degree of stress affecting a new mother may, according to new studies, make itself apparent in details as small as the way in which she cradles her baby. And the detrimental effects of these stresses, which often add up to diagnosable post-partum or post-natal depression (PND), extend beyond the mother to the child, compromising quality of life and a parent's ability to properly raise a child in the first crucial months after birth.

Lesser cases of PND, casually known as "baby blues," are extremely common and thankfully brief periods of physical and emotional fatigue directly following the birth of a child. As many as 50% of new mothers experience such a mild low for 36 to 72 hours in the period after giving birth, but the condition ends there for most. Clear distinctions should be made between these cases and the periods of more severe, pervasive depression that affect 10-20% of new mothers and, interestingly, 1 in 10 fathers as well. Due to recent publicity drawn from instances such as Brooke Shields's PND confession, casual readers have become more aware of the condition as a clinicially diagnosable disorder, and newly released research aims to further define the phenomenon.

Unfortunately, many PND moms hesitate to ask for help because they believe that their conditons are a long-accepted part of the mothering experience.
In the most recent study, researchers sought to determine ways to more effectively identify PND in patients and call for proper treatment before the condition's effects on mother and child become irreversibly ingrained in both of their lives. 80 British mothers were examined and interviewed by researchers from Durham University, and the study's most prominent finding is bewilderingly simple: the vast majority of women, whether they are right or left-handed, prefer to cradle their babies to the left. In the study, the most immediately visible difference between the healthy mothers and those suffering from undue stress was a propensity to cradle the baby to the right: only 14% of unaffected moms preferred the right side, while the number jumped to 32% among those deemed high-stress. The preference is certainly subconscious, and researchers could not explain it, but it serves to make the larger point that compounded stress in women who've recently given birth often leads to negative changes in the way they treat their babies - they may, despite legitimate parental affection, come to blame the children for their own anxieties.

The most important aspect of this research is that it may, in a very small way, help to expand public awareness of the condition so that it can be noticed much more prominently by family members and, more importantly, primary clinics. We cannot allow more mothers and their children to suffer because post-partum lows continue to be seen as nothing more than "expected" inconveniences.

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