Fear of childbirth plays a key role in postpartum depression–study

1Though it’s quite ambiguous what exactly causes postnatal depression, experts say that a history of depression can fuel the risk for the condition. Now a new study finds that apprehensions of childbirth may also trigger feelings of postnatal depression in some women.

The study found fear of childbirth tripled the threat of postpartum depression in women who have never been treated for depression and increased the risk fivefold in those with the mental condition.

What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression, also called postpartum depression (PPD), is the mood swings that a woman can experience after childbirth. It’s natural for new moms to feel frustrated and burst into tears but when the “baby blues” last more than two weeks, or are very severe (symptoms such as stress, irritability, erratic sleep, reduced libido, crying bouts, fatigue, gloominess, social withdrawal and resentment) they have a significant negative effect on life. This depressive state might arise within a few days of delivery and could continue for years together if left untreated.

Birth and health registers in Finland reviewed

In order to get some insight into whether fear and anxiety of childbirth is tied to postpartum depression, a team of international experts analyzed data from the Finnish medical birth register, the Finnish congenital malformations register and the Finnish hospital discharge register.

They reviewed details pertaining to a total of 511,422 births that occurred between 2002 and 2010 across the nation. Among these new moms, 0.3 percent was diagnosed with postpartum depression within the time frame.

The analysis revealed that women with a known depressive disease had a higher risk of suffering from the condition (roughly 5.3 percent) and approximately one-third of those with no reported history of melancholy experienced symptoms of postpartum depression.

“As expected … two-thirds of all cases occurred in women with a history of depressive symptoms before or during pregnancy,” wrote lead study author Sari Raisanen, an epidemiologist and visiting scholar at Emory University in Atlanta, and her colleagues.

However, the surprise finding was that a third of the cases were of women deemed to be at low risk for the condition, given that they had exhibited no prior signs of depression.

After scrutinizing the women’s medical histories, the researchers observed  that caesarean birth, preterm birth, stillbirth or congenital anomaly were other potential risk factors. The danger of depression hitting new moms was highest after the first birth.

The findings of the study are published in the British Medical Journal.