Controlling childbirth pain tied to lower depression risk

July 23, 2014

Controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, writes Katherine Wisner, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine® perinatal psychiatrist, in a July 23 editorial in Anesthesia & Analgesia.

Wisner's editorial is based on a new Chinese study that found women who had pain control with epidural anesthesia during a had a much lower risk for than women who didn't have the epidural.

"Maximizing pain control in labor and delivery with your obstetrician and team might help reduce the risk of postpartum depression," Wisner said.

The study findings are among the few to examine the relationship between pain during labor and postpartum depression.

"It's a huge omission that there has been almost nothing in postpartum depression research about pain during labor and delivery and postpartum depression," Wisner said. "There is a well-known relationship between acute and and depression."

Wisner is director of Northwestern's Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders. She also is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The Chinese study found that women who had an epidural for pain relief during labor for a vaginal delivery had a 14 percent rate of depression at six weeks postpartum compared to nearly 35 percent rate of depression for those who did not have the pain relief. An epidural was the only means of pain control available to the women.

The study also found that breastfeeding was more common in the group who had an epidural for pain compared to those who did not (70 percent versus 50 percent.)

"These findings are quite exciting and further research should be done to confirm them, especially in women at increased risk of postpartum depression and in women from other cultures," Wisner said.

The incidence of severe acute postpartum pain is approximately 11 percent, Wisner reports in the article. The incidence of chronic pain varies by study but ranges from 1 to 10 percent for vaginal delivery and 6 to 18 percent after a cesarean.

Biological and emotional factors contribute to postpartum depression, which affects 14.5 percent of who give birth. A woman who has chronic pain one to two months after delivery should be screened for depression, noted Wisner, also the Norman and Helen Asher Professor at Feinberg.

Managing acute postpartum pain supports the new mother's ability to emotionally attach and care for her infant, Wisner points out.

"Pain control gets the mother off to a good beginning rather than starting off defeated and exhausted," Wisner said. "Whether it's vaginal or cesarean section delivery, pain control postpartum is an issue for all new mothers. There is no way to have a delivery without pain. The objective here is to avoid severe pain. Controlling that so a woman can comfortably develop as a mother is something that makes a lot of sense."

Explore further: Surprising rate of women have depression after childbirth, study finds

Related Stories

Surprising rate of women have depression after childbirth, study finds

March 14, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A surprisingly high number of women have postpartum depressive symptoms, according to a new, large-scale study by a Northwestern Medicine® researcher.

What's best for depressed pregnant women and their infants?

October 15, 2013
Do the benefits of treating depressed pregnant women with antidepressants outweigh the risks of the drug exposure to their babies in terms of neonatal health and long-term development?

Fear of childbirth predicts postpartum depression

January 3, 2014
Expectant women with prenatally diagnosed fear of childbirth are at an increased risk of postpartum depression, according to a study of over 500,000 mothers in Finland. Women with a history of depression are at the highest ...

Urinary incontinence doubles risk of postpartum depression

June 20, 2011
Women with urinary incontinence after giving birth are almost twice as likely to develop postpartum depression as those without incontinence, according to a new study led by Wendy Sword, a professor in McMaster University's ...

Postpartum depression improves with time, but for many women, depressive symptoms linger

January 13, 2014
Research evidence shows that symptoms of postpartum depression decrease over time—but depression remains a long-term problem for 30 to 50 percent of affected women, according to a report in the January Harvard Review of ...

Antidepressants for pregnant moms don't affect infants' growth, research says

March 20, 2013
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants taken by a woman during pregnancy do not impact her infant's growth over the first year, reports a new study from a Northwestern Medicine scientist.

Recommended for you

To pick a great gift, it's better to give AND receive

July 28, 2017
If it's the thought that makes a gift count, here's a thought that can make your gift count extra: Get a little something for yourself.

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.