New Research On Fearful Mothers & PostPartum Depression
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It’s no wonder that 70-80% of new mothers encounter some form of the baby blues. Giving birth is a monumental process. Not only is the prospect of raising a new child (or children) a scary ordeal, but angst about labor pain and strain can induce panic. In fact, research suggests that women diagnosed with fear, regarding the birth process, were three times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
The BMJ Open recently published findings from the University of Finland that indicate a connection between fear of childbirth and depressive symptoms. Of mothers with a history of clinical depression, 5.3% received a diagnosis of postpartum depression. Remarkably though, one-third of women, who had never experienced depression in any form before childbirth, experienced some depressive symptoms. These types of episodes are common, especially for first time mothers, but the underlying message of this study is that fear can be an indicator of postpartum depression.
What exactly is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is not the baby blues. After birth, many women feel sad, anxious, irritable, and other confusing emotions. All of this is common because of significant hormonal and physical changes. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is more severe in symptoms and consequences. Unlike the blues, this depression can last for months after birth. A sense of hopelessness, emptiness, and sadness can affect new mothers. More depressive symptoms include a lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and an overall loss of interest in daily routines.
The affects of postpartum depression can be serious for the developing relationship between mother and child, leading to a series of negative consequences. Attachment theory posits that the emotional bonds between a parent and child can have lasting effects on a child’s psychological and emotional well-being. Women who suffer from depression could have issues attaching to their newborns. Young babies need to feel loved and secure; if a parent fails to respond to their basic needs, they may develop emotional and behavioral problems.
Severely detached behavior can be an indication of postpartum psychosis. This mental illness should be treated as an emergency, as many people surrounding the new mother could be in danger. A woman suffering from postpartum psychosis may have sensory hallucinations, exhibit delusional behavior, and may be compelled to hurt herself or her children. Friends and family members, including the mother, should contact a professional right away.
How to prevent PPD?
The importance of linking fear of labor pain to postpartum depression is substantial. The University of Finland study provides substantial evidence by using medical diagnoses of prenatal fear and postnatal depression. While it is impossible to predict depression among new mothers, especially those without a history of mental illness, data supports a new approach to postpartum depression and pain management. Mental health and medical professionals can work with pregnant women to create a plan to control labor and postpartum pain.
Katherine Wisner, M.D., the director of Northwestern’s Asher Center for the Study of and Treatment of Depressive Disorders, recently wrote an editorial in Anesthesia & Analgesia discussing the implications of a new Chinese study. The researchers found that women who received an epidural during labor and delivery were less likely to experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Of the participants, women who received the epidural had a 14% rate of depression, while their counterparts had a 35% rate. The researchers did not look at caesarian deliveries or other pain alternatives.
In addition to these findings, further evidence suggests proper pain management can positively benefit a mother’s chance of breastfeeding and developing a strong attachment to her newborn. “These findings are quite exciting,” commented Wisner. “Pain control gets mothers off to a good beginning rather than starting off defeated or exhausted”. Wisner is also a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where she teaches psychiatry and behavior sciences, and obstetrics and gynecology, as well as a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
If acute and chronic pain is a predictor for postpartum depression, and clinically diagnosed fear of that pain triples the risk of women’s struggling with this mental illness, it seems clear that professionals should address pain management during the prenatal period. Together with an obstetrician, anesthesiologist, and possibly a mental health professional, a woman can prepare for the apprehension and physical pain that goes with labor. A new mother should know all of her options for controlling pain during labor and delivery, as well as postpartum discomfort. Most importantly, women who suffer from acute and chronic pain should be checked for postpartum depression.
Conclusion: Fear and chronic pain prior to birth can predict for Post Partum Depression.
- Melissa Lavery, M.S.
Northwestern University. (2014, July 23). Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 7, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140723110928.htm
Postpartum Depression-Topic Overview. (2012, April 16). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-topic-overview
Postpartum Psychosis. (2012, March 8). Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/postpartum-psychosis
University of Eastern Finland. (2014, January 3). Fear of childbirth predicts postpartum depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140103085242.htm