Epidural may reduce risk of post-natal depression

Mothers-to-be who use pain relief during childbirth may have a lower risk of depression after their babies are born, a leading psychiatrist has said.

Around one-in-10 women suffer from post-natal depression.

Now, new research from China has found that those who have an epidural for pain relief during labour during a normal birth have a lower rate of depression than those who go without.

Those who had the pain relief had a 14% rate of depression at six weeks postpartum compared to nearly 35% for those who did not have an epidural.

The study also found that breastfeeding was more common in the group who had an epidural for pain

Commenting on the research, Professor Katherine Wisner, a perinatal psychiatrist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, said that controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of developing the condition.

In an editorial, published in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, she said: “Maximising pain control in labour and delivery with your obstetrician and anaesthesia team might help reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

“It’s a huge omission that there has been almost nothing in postpartum depression research about pain during labour and delivery and postpartum depression. There is a well-known relationship between acute and chronic pain and depression.” Prof Wisner said.

“Pain control gets the mother off to a good beginning rather than starting off defeated and exhausted.”


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