Childbirth fears increase risk of postpartum depression
A new study says women who fear childbirth are at an increased risk of having postpartum depression.
Researchers in Finland studied more than a half-million women who were diagnosed with a fear of childbirth. Not surprisingly, women with a history of depression were at the highest risk of having postpartum depression.
But the surprise came as study leaders discovered that women, who reported fearing the experience but who had no history of depression, were about three times more likely to have postpartum depression than they would if they didn’t fear childbirth. The findings are published in BMJ Open.
After taking into account the mothers’ medical histories including those who experienced a cesarean section, pre-term birth or major birth defects, the biggest contributor to postpartum depression was fear of the birthing process itself.
Until now, it’s been difficult to predict the risk of postpartum depression in the population of women with no history of depression, researchers said. They hope the findings will raise awareness among mothers and health care professionals to better diagnose postpartum depression among this group.
According to the National Institutes of Health, it’s common for new moms to have the “baby blues,” in the days and weeks after childbirth. But those mood swings that may include anxiety or sadness tend to diminish in a few days or a week. Symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe and last much longer.
It’s important to know what postpartum depression looks like in case you’re one of the 10 to 15 percent of moms affected, says Dr. Eileen Morrison, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
“The sooner a new mom detects postpartum depression, the sooner she can get help and begin treatment,” says Dr. Morrison.
If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests contacting your doctor right away:
- Not being able to care for yourself or your baby
- Trouble doing tasks at home or on the job
- Changes in appetite
- Things that used to bring you pleasure no longer do
- Anxiety or panic attacks
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