May 15, 2013
1 min read

Postpartum depressive symptoms associated with reports of infant crying

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Maternal reports of inconsolable infant crying may hold a stronger link to postpartum depressive symptoms than infant colic, results from a study recently published in Pediatrics suggest.

The study included 587 mothers (mean age, 31 years) who had delivered shortly before or after recruitment. After completing the Baby’s Day Diary, a 24-hour record of infant and caregiver behavior during the first 5 to 6 weeks of the infant’s life, and recording their infant at different behavioral states (awake alert, fussing, crying, inconsolable crying, feeding, and sleeping), the mothers were scored on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).

Researchers indicated that a score of >12 on the EPDS is considered an indication of clinically significant maternal depression, and a score of ≥9 is considered “possible depression.” Mothers with an EPDS score ≥9 had reported an average of 170.5 minutes of total daily distress with a median of 7.5 minutes of inconsolable crying per day vs. 140.8 minutes in mothers with an EPDS score <9 (P=.001), median 0 minutes of inconsolable crying.

For mothers reporting more than 20 minutes of inconsolable crying per day, the adjusted OR for possible depression was 4 (95% CI, 2.0-8.1), and the adjusted OR for possible depression in mothers whose infant had colic was 2 (95% CI, 1.1-3.7)

This data suggests that the overall duration of an infant’s fussy behavior is less indicative of postpartum depressive symptoms than the mother’s actual experience of not being able to calm her child, researchers said. Although inconsolable crying is stressful to the parent, the failure to soothe the child adversely affects the parent’s self-confidence and behavioral responses toward the child.

“By providing anticipatory guidance to parents about the expected feelings of helplessness when their attempts to soothe their infant fail, we may be able to help them tolerate this common early difficulty in the parent-child relationship, bring about greater parental self-understanding, and provide an opportunity to offer help,” researchers concluded.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.