There is hope

Iowa's Perinatal Depression Project


  About baby blues

  About postpartum depression

  About postpartum psychosis

  What causes perintal depression
   and who is at risk?

  What help is available?  

  Facts & myths

  Resources for children

  Downloadable materials

  Additional resources

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The Impact of Postpartum Depression on Children
Behavioral problems Children of depressed mothers are more likely to have behavioral problems as they grow older, including trouble sleeping, temper tantrums, aggression and hyperactivity.
Developmental delays Children of depressed mothers begin to exhibit delays in cognitive, motor and language development. They may learn to walk and talk later and develop other skills later than other babies.
Social problems Children of depressed mothers may have difficulty establishing secure relationships. They may be less engaged, less attentive and have problems making friends.
Emotional problems Studies have shown that children of depressed mothers have lower self-esteem, have trouble accepting discipline and be less independent.
Depression Children of depressed mothers are at a greater risk for major depression early in life.

How Depression Affects Children

Children who grow up with a depressed mother tend to have more problems than children whose parents are not depressed. Attachment is a deep emotional bond that a baby forms with the person who provides most of his/her care (usually the mother). A "secure attachment" forms when a mother responds to her baby's needs consistently and lovingly. Attachment makes a baby feel safe and secure, helps them trust others and is believed to be an important predictor of a child's future adjustment.

Talking with Children About Depression

If you have been diagnosed with depression, you may be concerned about whether you should tell your children. If you had a different illness would you tell them? Many mothers diagnosed with depression worry about whether they should tell their children, and if so, how to begin talking to their children about their depression. It may be uncomfortable talking with your kids about depression, but talking can affect the impact your depression has on them.

You can help your child better understand your depression by explaining what mental health problems are, their causes and ways they can be treated. Explain that mental illnesses can affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts. Here are some tips for talking with your child about depression:

  • Pick a time that is quiet and without interruptions.
  • Tell the truth about your illness using words that your child can understand. It is ok to say "I don't know the answer" or "I will have to find out the answer to that."
  • Let your child know that mental health problems are treatable, that you are getting help and that you can get better.
  • Encourage your child to talk about his(her) feelings with you or another adult that they trust.
  • Be ready to answer questions. Keep in mind that an older child may ask more detailed questions than an elementary aged child.
  • Be aware of how your child responds to what you say.
  • Let your child know that it is OK to talk about his feelings or ask questions about your illness with you or another adult that they trust.
  • Let your child know that your depression is not their fault and they are not responsible for fixing it.

Resources for Children

Web Site Resources

Things to Expect When Your Mom is Pregnant - What should you expect when your mom is expecting?
Talking about Your Feelings - Sharing your feelings helps you when your feelings are good and when they aren't so good.
Welcoming a New Baby Into Your Family - If you're about to have a new baby in your family, you'll want to know something about them.
How Do You Feel? - Coloring book that provides a fun way to introduce mental health to children.
National Mental Health Center for Kids - Kid friendly web site that provides information about mental health and ways to talk about how you think, feel and act everyday.
Knowledge Path: Children and Adolescents with Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Challenges - Guide to resources from the health, education, social services, and juvenile justice literature on mental conditions in children and adolescents.

Phone Resources

Teen Line - 1-800-443-8336 (resource for Iowa teens)
Mental Heal InfoSource - 1-800-447-4474
National Youth Crisis Hotline - 1-800-448-4663


Contact Us

Privacy Notice
Disclaimer of Liability & Endorsement

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Iowa Department
of Public Health
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Funding for this project was provided by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration.