The impact of cognitive behavioural therapy for postpartum depression on physiological function in mother-infant dyads
Thursday, February 13, 2020
2:00 PM – 2:15 PM
Location: Max Bell - MB253
Introduction: Sub-optimal mother-infant interactions play a significant role in the link between postpartum depression (PPD) and offspring psychopathology. Observational studies suggest that depressed mothers are less sensitive to infant cues and struggle to help infants regulate their behaviour. This may be due to a lack of synchrony between mothers’ and infants’ physiological systems that underly dyadic interactions. However, it is unclear if treating mothers with PPD can result in adaptive changes to these systems within mothers and infants. The objective of this study was to examine whether the influence of mothers’ physiology on their infant and infants’ physiology on mothers increased after treating maternal PPD with cognitive behavioural therapy.
Methods: Methodology: We recruited 80 mother-infant pairs (40 mothers with a primary diagnosis of PPD receiving a 9-week CBT intervention and 40 healthy control pairs matched on infant age, sex and family socioeconomic status). Mother-infant physiology was assessed at two time points 1) baseline/pre-CBT and 2) 9-weeks post-baseline/post-CBT using respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) while dyads participated in the Face-to-Face Still-Face Task. Actor-partner interdependence models were used to examine whether changes occur between pre-CBT and 9-weeks post-CBT time points in the effect that one member of the dyad’s physiology has on their partner’s physiology.
Results: Preliminary analyses (mage [months]=5.6, SD=2.3) reveal that in healthy control dyads at baseline, mothers’ RSA influenced infant RSA and infants’ RSA influenced maternal RSA. This was not the case in the PPD group. However, nine weeks later, while healthy control dyad findings remained unchanged, after maternal treatment for PPD, mothers’ RSA influenced infant RSA and infants’ RSA influenced maternal RSA, normalizing function and matching the patterns observed in healthy dyads.
Conclusion: Treating PPD may promote positive changes in both mothers and infants, whereby mothers become more sensitive to infants, and infants are better regulated by mothers.