Effects of postpartum depression on motherinfant interaction

Research is confirming that postpartum depression negatively affects mother-infant interactions during the first year of life. Field's program of research has repeatedly reported that postpartum depression negatively affects maternal-infant interaction. Field [31], for example, reported a dysregulation profile for infants of mothers suffering from postpar-tum depression. Infants of postpartum depressed mothers have lower responsivity on the Brazelton scale, higher levels of indeterminate sleep, and elevated levels of norepinephrine and cortisol, activation of right frontal electroencephalogram, decreased responsivity to facial expressions, lower vagal tone, neurological delays, decreased play, decreased Bay-ley mental and motor scale scores, and lower weight percentiles [32]. Field [31] reported that postpartum depressed mothers displayed two predominant styles of interaction, withdrawn or intrusive. Mother-infant dyads matched negative behavior states more often and positive states less frequently than nondepressed mother-infant dyads [33].

Postpartum depressed mothers displayed significantly lower contingent responsiveness and higher negative contingent responsiveness to their infants [34]. Recently Paulson et al. [35] found that mothers depressed at 9 months after birth were 1.5 times more likely to engage in less positive enrichment activity with their child such as reading, singing songs, and telling stories. Forman et al. [36] reported that at 6 months postpar-tum depressed mothers were less responsive to the infants, experienced higher levels of parenting stress, and perceived their infants more negatively than nondepressed mothers. Since a mother constitutes the infant's primary social environment during the first months of life, the effects of postpartum depression on the rapidly developing baby is of great concern and merits closer scrutiny and study.

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