Delayed onset of maternal affection after childbirth

Br J Psychiatry. 1980 Apr;136:347-53. doi: 10.1192/bjp.136.4.347.


Information about perceptions of labour and delivery and about immediate emotional reactions to their newborn babies was obtained from two groups of primiparous women (n = 112 and n = 41) and from 40 multiparae. About 40 per cent of primiparae and 25 per cent of multiparae recalled that their predominant emotional reaction when holding their babies for the very first time had been one of indifference. Maternal affection was more likely to be lacking after delivery if the mother had had a forewater amniotomy and had, in addition, either experienced a painful and unpleasant labour or been given more than 125 mg of pethidine. Most mothers developed affection for their babies within a week of delivery and, in all groups of subjects, no longer term adverse effects were seen, such as post-natal depression or aggressive impulses directed at the baby. Three months post-natally it was, however, found that a mother was more likely to express feelings of dislike or indifference towards her baby if she was clinically depressed at the time.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Object Attachment
  • Obstetric Labor Complications / psychology
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pregnancy