According to a new study mothers suffering from postpartum depression are likely to contemplate suicide.
For these women contemplating taking their own lives, the mother-infant relationship and development was a negative experience.
They also suffered greater mood disturbances, cognitive distortions, low maternal self-esteem, negative perceptions of their effectiveness as a new parent and noticeably less responsiveness to their infants' cues.
For the study, the team worked with clinicians at the Jewish Family and Children's Service Early Connections program, a home-based mother-infant psychotherapy intervention that specializes in the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD) and mood disorders.
The program's key goal is to increase the mother's ability to be effectively present in her interaction with the child and to address issues that arise as result of becoming a mother.
The participating women - most of them first-time mothers in their 30s - had a wide range of suicidal thinking and suffered from depression, isolation and extreme difficulties in parenting infants.
Fifty three percent of the participants comprised the high suicidality group and the study found that those women were experiencing more sleeping and eating problems along with greater severity in overall struggles attributable to postpartum depression.
"These mothers... were also feeling more anxious, emotionally labile, mentally confused, had experienced a greater loss of self and felt greater guilt about their experience," said the study.
It also showed that mothers with suicidal ideas had poorer self esteem than women who had few suicidal thoughts and experienced less distress in the parenting role.
The high suicidality group also perceived they were less prepared for mothering and expected a poor relationship with their infants.
"For these depressed women with suicidal ideas, they may have prepared for the birth of their babies in some ways, but there was a paucity of emotional preparation and anticipation of some of the difficulties ahead, particularly regarding how they and their partners lives would change," said Dr Ruth Paris, Assistant Professor of Clinical Practice at Boston University's School of Social Work.
"The treatment of PPD should include the mother with the infant -not the mother alone- to best remediate the relationship where depressed mothers are often less able to be sensitive and responsive to their babies," Paris added.
The study is published in Archives of Women's Mental Health.