Postpartum depression, suicidality, and mother-infant interactions

  • Ruth Paris
  • Rendelle E. Bolton
  • M. Katherine Weinberg
Original Contribution


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.


Postpartum depression Postpartum suicidal ideation Mother-infant interactions 



Support for this work was provided by the Office of the Provost at Boston University and the Faculty Grant Program at the Lois and Samuel Silberman Fund, New York Community Trust. The authors would like to thank Sally Bachman for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript, Peggy Kaufman, Eda Spielman and the staff and clients of the Early Connections Program, Greater Boston Jewish Family and Children’s Service for their time and willingness to participate in this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Paris
    • 1
  • Rendelle E. Bolton
    • 1
  • M. Katherine Weinberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston University School of Social WorkBostonUSA

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