Maternal Depression

If moms can’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of their children

Depression affects up to 45 percent of all pregnant, postpartum and parenting mothers in home visiting programs. Up to 33 percent of mothers suffer from Major Depressive Disorder, the most serious form of depression. The effects of maternal depression can be widespread and lasting for both the mother and children.

How maternal depression affects pregnancy

Depression during pregnancy often goes undetected, but it can have profound effects on both the mother and her unborn child.

Depressed mothers are:

  • 3.4 times more likely to deliver prematurely
  • Four times more likely to deliver a low birth-weight baby
  • More likely to have obstetrical complications
  • Less likely to breastfeed, or breastfeed as long as recommended

Each of these areas is an important target of home visitation programs

How maternal depression affects children

Children are most vulnerable to the negative impact of maternal depression during the first year of life. This is a formative year when they develop important relational skills, experience parental love and trust, and learn to communicate. A depressed mother often struggles to focus on her baby, and HAS DIFFICULTY being positive and nurturing. She has difficulty forming an emotional attachment with her baby, who often withdraws as a result. Children of depressed mothers can suffer lasting harm to their emotional, behavioral, and cognitive development.

Children of depressed mothers are more likely to:

  • Have attention and concentration problems
  • Have trouble regulating emotions and behavior
  • Have delays in language, reading, and writing
  • Have difficulty in their social relationships
  • Develop depression in adolescence

Home visiting programs teach mothers positive and nurturing parenting skills, and promote healthy development in children. In the absence of effective treatment, maternal depression makes it harder for home visitors to achieve these outcomes.

md2Changing outcomes for depressed mothers in home visiting programs

The good news is that maternal depression CAN BE TREATED. However, depressed mothers in home visiting are rarely able to access effective, evidence-based treatment in the community. Most home visiting programs are simply not equipped to provide effective maternal depression treatment. This reduces the effectiveness of their programs and leaves both mother and child at risk for the long-term effects of depression.

Moving Beyond DepressionTM uses In-Home Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (IH-CBT), an evidence-based treatment designed specifically for depressed mothers who are enrolled in a home visiting program (Ammerman et al., 2013). Developed at Every Child Succeeds®, IH-CBT was adapted to uniquely complement home visiting programs, providing evidence-based treatment for mothers that leverages home visiting services to reduce or eliminate their depression and help them create healthy home environments and a future of promise.