, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 309-321
Date: 29 Aug 2009

Postpartum depression, suicidality, and mother-infant interactions

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Abstract

To date, few studies have examined suicidality in women with postpartum depression. Reports of suicidal ideation in postpartum women have varied (Lindahl et al. Arch Womens Ment Health 8:77–87, 2005), and no known studies have examined the relationship between suicidality and mother-infant interactions. This study utilizes baseline data from a multi-method evaluation of a home-based psychotherapy for women with postpartum depression and their infants to examine the phenomenon of suicidality and its relationship to maternal mood, perceptions, and mother-infant interactions. Overall, women in this clinical sample (n = 32) had wide ranging levels of suicidal thinking. When divided into low and high groups, the mothers with high suicidality experienced greater mood disturbances, cognitive distortions, and severity of postpartum symptomotology. They also had lower maternal self-esteem, more negative perceptions of the mother-infant relationship, and greater parenting stress. During observer-rated mother-infant interactions, women with high suicidality were less sensitive and responsive to their infants’ cues, and their infants demonstrated less positive affect and involvement with their mothers. Implications for clinical practice and future research directions are discussed.