Why does a woman’s mood change following the birth of a child? It’s because her postpartum mood is significantly related to the quality of her relationship with her partner during pregnancy. That makes sense when you consider the lightning speed at which modern romance takes place. Children are often born before partners really get to know each other.
If that happens, couples do not really feel like a family when they are together. Without that feeling, partners cannot effectively turn to each other for help and reassurance during times of need. When they try to work through relationship roadblocks, it often cranks up the level of stress in their relationship, rather than reducing it. That is why so often partners turn away from each other, and to their friends or family members, when relationship problems arise.
For a woman who is pregnant, this adds another layer of stress to her life. She does not feel there is an emotionally-secure attachment between her and her partner. So, when her child is born, her bonding system–which creates the ties that bind–will override most of her feelings of being in love with her partner. And then, she’ll focus her emotional energy on the child. In this fashion, she’ll adapt to her stressful environment in a way that protects the child.
This is a natural biological process related to pregnancy. In prehistoric times, it allowed women’s hormones to readjust quickly, after giving birth, to accommodate to natural disasters and unforeseen circumstances. In modern times, the unforeseen circumstance might be discovering that a partner just isn’t all that much into you. Whatever the case, partners who don’t really know each other never have a clear understanding of how their relationship is evolving. So they don’t know how to respond to each other’s needs.
The important issue here is that when a woman gives birth her bonding hormones naturally kick into overdrive. This hormonal change causes her to want to bond closer with her partner. She feels they should support each other and reach out and face the world together, protecting the child the way healthy families do. If, however, all a women experiences is an emotional blank from her partner–no soothing voice, no feelings of emotional support, nothing to quell her anxieties–she’ll latch onto the baby and push her partner aside.
Then, she may try to reach out to her mother for support. Her unconscious motivation is the hope that her bond with her mother will be strong enough to quell her anxieties and frustrations, and stop her downward drift into depression.
The problems caused by the fast pace of modern love do not stop here. If a new mother’s partner has not bonded to her before the child is born, he may not bond to the baby, either. He has to have ties that bind him emotionally to his partner before the baby is born for him to be a part of the family bonding process.
All this is different when partners have had time to form strong emotional attachments before the baby is born. When that is the case, a new mother’s bonding system doesn’t override her feelings of being in love. Her bonding hormones simply increase while her in-love and her sexual hormones slack off a bit.
This natural balancing process shows that there isn’t some innate flaw with how a woman’s bonding system operates during pregnancy. Rather, nature allows it to override her in-love and sexual systems when the survival of the infant is as stake. So, when people blame women for their postpartum depression, and say, “Get over it,” they simply do not know what they are talking about.
The real cause of postpartum depression is different. The dramatization of love at first sight, the glorification of sexuality, and the rush to get married before partners really get to know each other–these are the culprits that eventually lead to unsatisfying relationships. And unsatisfying relationships are a prime cause of postpartum depression.