Mothers with Postpartum Depression Reluctant to Have More than Two Children

By No machine-readable author provided. Sharkyhaai assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mothers who experience postpartum depression are not likely to have more than two children, according to research carried out by evolutionary anthropologists from the University of Kent. Until recently, not very much has been known about how a woman’s future fertility is impacted through the experience of postpartum depression.

What is Postpartum Depression (Postnatal Depression) or PPD?

If you have had a baby within the past 12 months and have experience some (not necessarily all) of the following symptoms, you may have PPD:

•Feeling overwhelmed and worrying about whether you should have become a mother in the first place.
•Feeling guilty because you believe you should be able to handle new motherhood better than you are.
•You don’t feel a bond with your new baby.
•You can’t understand what’s happening to you and why you feel the way you do. You may be confused or scared about new motherhood.
•You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything is annoying to you. You feel resentment towards your baby, partner, or friends who don’t have children.
•Out of control rage- not everyone with PPD feels this way, but if you do get help immediately.
•Feelings of emptiness, sadness to the depths of your soul, can’t eat or perhaps overeating.
•Wanting to sleep all the time, or you can’t sleep when the baby sleeps or at any other time.
•You feel hopeless and overwhelmed, like the situation will never get any better. Some women also have feelings of failure.

The Study

A team of researcher’s team from Kent’s School of Anthropology and Conservation collected information on the complete reproductive histories of more than 300 women to measure the effect of postpartum depression had on their choice to have more children. The mothers were all born in the early to mid-20th century and the majority of them were based in industrialized countries when raising their children.

The team of researchers concluded that postpartum depression, especially when a child is newborn, leads to lowered levels of fertility. Experiencing higher levels of emotional distress through her first postnatal period decreased a woman’s chances of having a third child, though it didn’t impact if she had a second one.

Furthermore, postpartum depression after the first and second child dissuaded women from having any further children, to the extent as if they had experienced a major complication during childbirth.


The research team was led by Sarah Myers, Dr. Oskar Burger and Dr. Sarah Jones and it is the very first research to shed light on the potential role that postpartum depression has on population ageing, where the median age of a country becomes older with passing time.

This demographic change is most likely due to the fact of women are having fewer children and it can result in significant social and economic consequences. Given that postpartum depression has a prevalence of around 13 percent in industrialized countries, with emotional distress occurring in up to 63 percent of mothers with infants, this study suggests that investing in screening and preventative measures is definitely needed.

By having better screening and preventative measures in place, it helps ensure good maternal mental health now and may reduce the costs and problems associated with an aging population at a later point in time.

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