Open Journal Systems

The Maternal Infant Dyadic Relationship - Looking Beyond Postpartum Depression

Helen Chen, Theresa Lee


Objective: Postpartum mental illness arises from a culmination of factors at the time of the motherhood transition, and bears impact on maternal wellbeing, as well as the infant. Whilst traditional psychiatric approach focuses primarily on symptomatology, diagnostic assessment, and treatment aimed largely at symptoms relief, the infant’s wellbeing and development is of key concern. And thus follows the need to address the space between mother and infant - the dyadic experience. Understanding the world of the infant, the nature of mother-infant bonding, and possible disorders allows us to care better for mothers with perinatal mental illness. Methods: Literature review of the evidence and possible approaches to addressing the mother-infant relational disorder will be discussed based on case reports. In particular, the Watch Wait and Wonder technique, an infant/child-led psychotherapy will be demonstrated with case studies. Results: The case studies demonstrate important themes of mother-infant bonding difficulties common to mothers with postpartum mental illness. Therapy specifically addressing these issues can enable mothers to process feelings of ambivalence and conflicts that hamper the development of the dyadic relationship. Conclusion: The maternal-infant dyadic relationship is a key focus in postpartum mental illness, and mental healthcare for postpartum depression and other illness should consider interventions as needed.

Download ASEAN Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 14 (2): July - December 2013.