See Inside February/March 2008

Postpartum Depression Epidemic Affects More than Just Mom

A deep despair mars the first year of motherhood for as many as one in five women. Without treatment, postpartum depression can weaken critical bonds between a mother and her child


The psychologist smiles at Manuela, a new mother in her late thirties. “Please play with your baby for two minutes,” the therapist instructs her and then leaves the room. Two video cameras film Manuela (which is not her real name) and her three-month-old daughter. In the next room, a split-screen monitor shows the mother’s profile on the left and her infant in a baby chair on the right.

At first, Manuela appears to be at a loss for what to do. Then, her face noticeably stiff, she begins to talk softly to her baby. Her baby fidgets, briefly makes eye contact and then turns away. Manuela eventually stops talking and stares into the distance, unsure again how to act. She absentmindedly strokes her baby’s foot with one hand. The psychologist knocks on the door; the videotaping is over. The new mother is now on the verge of tears.

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