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Skin-to-Skin Contact May Lower Risk for Postpartum Depression

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Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 26, 2013

Skin-to-skin contact between a new mother and her infant may lessen the chances of postpartum depression, according to new research.

Many new moms experience the “baby blues” as they adjust to their new roles, but the rate at which mothers suffer from postpartum depression during the first six weeks after delivery seems to be on the rise.

Symptoms of postpartum depression may include sadness, anxiety, compulsive thinking, fear and feelings of inadequacy.  The disorder affects not only the mother, but the baby as well, putting them at risk for future social, emotional and cognitive difficulties.

According to the study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing, skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby may be an alternative therapy for mothers trying to avoid taking medication.

The study reveals that new mothers who had six hours of skin-to-skin contact during the first week followed by at least two hours during the next month reported fewer depressive symptoms.  Saliva samples confirmed lower cortisol levels, a marker of stress, than their counterparts.

For a baby, skin-to-skin contact helps fulfill the need for human contact and promotes bonding. The touching releases the hormone oxytocin in the mother, which encourages infant/mother attachment and increases the feeling of well-being and relaxation.

A study in the journal Pediatrics reports that skin-to-skin contact for as little as three hours a day can reduce infant crying by 43 percent. This can lead to lower stress levels for a new mother who is otherwise unsure how to calm her crying infant.

Furthermore, skin-to-skin contact helps infants fall asleep more easily and also sleep for a longer period of time.  This allows the new mother to get more rest and reduce stress levels.

Many new moms feel overwhelmed at not being able to accomplish everyday tasks. Wearing the baby in an infant carrier satisfies the need for skin-to-skin contact while allowing the mom to have two free arms to do laundry or put on some makeup.

Being able to do these simple things can help an overwhelmed mother get used to her new life by keeping some of her former routine the same, so she feels more like herself.

Source:  Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing

This article originally appeared on Fox News.com.

 

Happy mother holding her infant photo by shutterstock.

 

APA Reference
SilvestriBanks-FoxNewsSpecialReport, J. (2013). Skin-to-Skin Contact May Lower Risk for Postpartum Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/02/16/skin-to-skin-contact-may-lower-risk-for-postpartum-depression/51683.html