The story is different for new mothers with postpartum depression (PPD), which affects up to 20% of those who have given birth.
The role of postpartum depression in interactions with children
However, it is not known how mothers’ comfort signals are transmitted to their babies, how postpartum depression disrupts this process, or whether treatment of depressed mothers is not known. Can sensors alter these signals?
To investigate this, the researchers worked with two groups of mother-child pairs: in the control group, both mother and child were healthy; in the other group, mothers were diagnosed with PPD within one year of giving birth.
The study’s methodology put mothers and babies through three stages of interaction. During the play phase, mothers play with their babies as usual (eg, sing, talk, touch).
During the quiet period, mothers are instructed not to touch or talk to the child and to maintain eye contact and keep an expressionless face, allowing the child to become distressed and agitated.
The final reunification phase was central to the research: here, mothers were allowed to re-engage with their currently suffering children as they did during the play phase.
Throughout these stages, the team monitored both mother and baby for a measure of heart rate variability known as respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), which is a known indicator of heart rate variability. a person’s emotional state.
During the recombination phase, the researchers are looking at these results for evidence of a “feedback loop” of heart rate signals back and forth between mother and baby.
The groups were tested in this way twice: once to establish baseline and then a second time, several weeks later, after mothers with PPD had received and observed benefit words, a course of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to improve their emotional state.
In the healthy control group, they found that the change in the mother’s heart rate, measured through RSA readings, before the infant’s heart rate, showed that they were leading the gentle dance.
In contrast, in the group with PPD, it was the infants whose physiological cues led to jumping. But after CBT treatment, the physiological signaling of PPD mothers improved so that they led back and forth, just like healthy mothers.
This study was published in Journal of Psychiatry and Clinical Science demonstrate that maternal-infant synchronicity plays a role in alleviating distressed infants and that PPD treatment with CBT can improve synchronicity patterns and thus enhance the ability to soothe distressed infants. suffering of mothers.
It also calls for future studies to examine whether the improvement in the calming effects of the RSA feedback loop might be incidentally related to CBT treatment of mothers with PPD. The researchers hope that showing causality, and effect, might boost the idea that these programs might benefit them.