Grandparents may have significant impact on a mom’s mental health, study finds: ‘Wisdom and experience’

Grandparents could be good for women’s health.

The support and presence of grandparents can have a significant impact on the mental health of mothers, according to a new study published this week in the journal Population Studies.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that grandparental support could protect mothers from depression — especially those who have separated from their partners and have become single parents.

The study examined Finnish register data of 116,917 separating mothers and 371,703 non-separating mothers with children under the age of 12. 

The women were examined for at least three years between 2000 and 2014.

The researchers compared the prevalence of mothers’ antidepressant medications to grandparental characteristics related to their ability to provide support. 

A lower probability of maternal depression was predicted with the presence of grandparents who were under age 70, who were employed and who did not have severe health problems.

Depression was also less common if the grandparents were still married and lived near their daughter.

The characteristics of the maternal grandmother seemed to carry the most weight in impacting the mental health of the mother.

The role of paternal grandparents was smaller, the study found.

Grandparents could be good for women’s health as the support and presence of grandparents can have a significant impact on the mental health of mothers. Halfpoint – stock.adobe.com

“Grandparental characteristics associated with increased potential for providing support and decreased need of receiving support predict a lower likelihood of maternal depression, particularly among separating mothers,” the researchers stated in the findings.

In a statement sent to Fox News Digital, study co-author Dr. Niina Metsa-Simola mentioned that the differences in maternal mental health could be larger in the US than in Finland, particularly when mothers separate. 

“This is because Finland is a comprehensive Nordic welfare state that offers relatively generous support measures, including affordable childcare,” she said.

“Furthermore, multigenerational households (that is, grandparents living together with their adult children and grandchildren) are highly uncommon in Finland.”

Matt Lundquist, LCSW, MSED, a psychotherapist at Tribeca Therapy in New York City, was not involved in the study but reacted to the findings in an interview with Fox News Digital.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland found that grandparental support could protect mothers from depression Ragemax – stock.adobe.com

In many cases, she said the most helpful form of mental health intervention is a sense of community and support from loved ones.

“While there can be psychiatric issues that need attention from a mental health professional, often the kinds of community support, family support, caring and nurturing that new moms and new parents get is incredibly significant,” he said.

The support of a maternal figure who can offer woman-to-woman guidance is especially important, Lundquist noted.

Women face the challenges of the change in identity that comes with new motherhood, particularly if it’s their first time giving birth, he said.

“And also, [they face] the challenges of learning to take care of a little baby and become a parent,” Lundquist said.

The study examined Finnish register data of 116,917 separating mothers and 371,703 non-separating mothers with children under the age of 12. Alessandro Biascioli – stock.adobe.com

“A lot of folks reach for support from their moms or from somebody who can be a stand-in with some wisdom and experience.”

In terms of tackling postpartum depression, Lundquist said that being a new mom is an “underappreciated” challenge — which is where grandparents can step in.

“When we think about the role that [the mother’s] parents play, especially her mom, there’s a particular form of guidance in navigating those shifts in identity and creating space to talk about that,” he said.

Educational psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Michele Borba, who was not involved in the study, also emphasized that “caring relationships are crucial for mental well-being.”

The California-based expert told Fox News Digital, “[It’s] little surprise that this study found that moms who had their own mothers living close by were less likely to be depressed.”

A lower probability of maternal depression was predicted with the presence of grandparents who were under age 70, who were employed and who did not have severe health problems. Vasyl – stock.adobe.com

When living near family isn’t possible, daily video calls with grandparents could be a good alternative, Borba suggested.

“Grandmothers can also find support networks for their daughters — friends and relatives as well as nearby medical resources,” she said.

“The key is that the caregiver consistently reaches out in a caring, concerned manner to help the mother’s personal well-being as well as their children’s.”

This child-parent relationship can be instrumental in helping to ease the transition to motherhood, which can be jarring for some new moms, according to Lundquist.

There is an “enormous intensity” in realizing “how much of yourself you have to give to someone else,” said the therapist.

“And that’s physically, spiritually, energetically and emotionally,” he said.

“If someone has a close relationship with their own parents, particularly their mom, that’s a space where they can talk about those feelings.”

While single mothers seem to appreciate the support from their parents a little more, Lundquist said that for some families, it’s important to define the grandparents’ roles.

 “It seems evident that the grandparents are showing up with good intent, though they may not be as careful or nuanced in their approach as possible,” he said.

Lundquist suggested that grandparents offer their help rather than assuming they’re invited to visit or stay with their children and grandchildren.

He encouraged grandparents to ask, “What are some ways that we can be helpful but not feel like we’re imposing on you?” 

“I think that has the effect of helping new moms or new parents feel more open to accepting help.”

source: nypost.com