Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with a fear of giving birth are at greater risk for postpartum depression, according to a Finnish study published in the journal BMJ Open.
The findings revealed that women with a history of depression are at the highest risk of postpartum depression.
However, having a fear of childbirth puts women with no history of depression at an approximately three times higher risk for postpartum depression.
Going through childbirth is a powerful experience both physically and mentally, and a variety of emotions are present. It is estimated that between 50 and 80 percent of women suffer from the “baby blues” after giving birth, which may include feelings of anxiety, irritation, tearfulness, or restlessness.
However, some new mothers go further into developing postpartum depression with more severe symptoms, and in rare cases psychotic depression.
The consequences of postpartum depression can be damaging. The disorder may affect the mother’s abilities and skills to engage in delicate interaction with her baby, and therefore impair the mother-child bond — potentially affecting the child’s later development and well-being.
In Finland, researchers found that 0.3 percent of all mothers who had a single birth delivery were diagnosed with postpartum depression in 2002–2010.
Postpartum depression was diagnosed in just over 5 percent of women with a history of depression, while approximately one-third of women experiencing postpartum depression had no history of depression. The risk of postpartum depression is highest after the first childbirth.
Physician-diagnosed fear of childbirth during pregnancy was found to nearly triple the risk of postpartum depression. Other risk factors included Caesarean section, pre-term birth and major congenital anomaly.
It is well-known that women with a history of depression are at greater risk for postpartum depression, but it has been difficult to predict the risk of women who have no history of depression.
According to the researchers, the discovered link between fear of childbirth and postpartum depression may help health care professionals in recognizing postpartum depression. The study provides strong evidence, as it relies on diagnosis-based data on postpartum depression.
Source: BMJ Open