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Interventions to Improve Maternal-Infant Relationships in Mothers With Postpartum Mood Disorders

Lindensmith, Rebekah, BHSc, BScN

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: November/December 2018 - Volume 43 - Issue 6 - p 334–340
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000471

Introduction: During the postpartum period, women may have changes in their mental health and experience postpartum mood disorders. Postpartum depression (PPD) is an especially prevalent postpartum mood disorder, affecting 10% to 15% of new mothers. Although PPD has detrimental effects on women's health, it can also affect maternal–infant attachment, bonding, and interaction, which influence the maternal–infant relationship and can lead to poor outcomes for infants later in life. The purpose of this review is to identify effective strategies for improving the maternal–infant relationship for mothers with postpartum mood disorders.

Methods: A literature search was conducted via three databases: PubMed, Cochrane Library, and Medline using key search terms. A total of 1,347 articles were scanned to determine their relevance; 19 articles were selected for review. Inclusion criteria included articles in English that focused in the postpartum period and measured outcomes related to the maternal–infant relationship.

Results: Infant massage appears to benefit the maternal–infant relationship, whereas psychotherapy and education had mixed results. Pharmacological interventions were not found to improve maternal–infant relationships. Family involvement was shown to improve infant attachment, but not the maternal–infant relationship.

Clinical Implications: Nurses should be aware of the importance of including interventions targeted at improving the maternal–infant relationship for women with postpartum mood disorders, especially PPD. However, data are limited, thus more research is needed to develop evidence-based strategies that can be implemented to support women experiencing postpartum mood disorders and their infants.

Postpartum depression can influence maternal-infant attachment, bonding, and interaction, which affect the maternal-infant relationship and lead to poor outcomes for infants later in life. A review of the evidence on interventions to improve maternal-infant relationships in mothers with postpartum mood disorders is presented.

Rebekah Lindensmith is a Research Assistant, School of Nursing, Nipissing University, Ontario, Canada. The author can be reached via e-mail at

The author declares no conflicts of interest.

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