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Perinatal Mood Disorders and Family Size/Spacing

posted Aug 18, 2014, 9:53 PM by AndrewandSarah Witzel

It doesn’t take long after having a baby for your friends and family to start asking when you’re going to have the next one! For families dealing with PPD or other mood disorders though, expanding the family is the last thing on their minds. I always pictured having 3 or 4 children spaced around two years apart, but we have an almost-three-year-old daughter who is still an only child.

Whether you have no more children, or six more, experiencing a mood disorder will impact what you want in terms of family size and spacing. One important thing to remember is that it is perfectly okay to limit your family size or opt for longer spacing between kids. If you had other obstetrical complications, such as gestational diabetes or placenta previa, this would influence your family planning. Mood disorders are no less legitimate than any other complication. On the flip side, if you do want more children or a close interval between siblings, you may experience some criticism or concern from friends or family who disagree with your choices.

One expert in perinatal mood disorders, Karen Kleiman, recommends an age gap of about 3 or 4 years between your children. There are two reasons for her recommendation: there is less strain on the mother in this situation vs. caring for an infant and a young toddler, and a preschooler will be better able to cope with maternal mood disorders than a toddler would. Of course, some families do have a closer gap (by either choice or surprise), and these cases planning ahead to optimize support, both emotional and practical, is key.