Researchers at York University showed how postpartum depression (PPD) in new mothers can disrupt mothers’ soothing signals that help calm distressed babies. The study is published in the Journal of Psychopathology and Clinical Science.
The researchers observed two sets of mother-infant pairs in a series of experiments. In one group, both mothers and babies were healthy. In the other group, the mothers had a PPD diagnosis within a year of giving birth.
The mothers and babies were asked to participate in three phases of interaction. These included the mothers engaging with the babies, adopting an expressionless “poker face” to irk the babies, and re-engaging with their distressed infants.
Throughout the phases, the team monitored both mother and baby for a heart-rate variability measure called respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). They looked for a “feedback loop” of reciprocal heart-rate signals passing between mother and baby.
The results showed that synchronized physiology between mothers and babies helps mothers calm their distressed infants. However, postpartum depression disrupts this process of maternal transmission of physiological regulatory support. So, depressed mothers cannot adequately comfort their distressed young ones.
Towards Postpartum Depression Interventions
Nonetheless, researchers claim that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for PPD-suffering mothers can alter these signals and improve synchronicity patterns. It can help strengthen the transmission of soothing effects from mother to infant.
One of the lead researchers, John Krzeczkowski, elaborated: “… We want more people to get treatment for PPD. We hope that by showing causality and efficacy, it can increase the idea that these programs can benefit them.”
To Know More Please Refer To
Krzeczkowski, J. E., Schmidt, L. A., Ferro, M. A., & Van Lieshout, R. J. (2022). Follow the leader: Maternal transmission of physiological regulatory support to distressed infants in real-time. Journal of psychopathology and clinical science, 131(5), 524–534. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000760