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Being Afraid of Childbirth Tied to Postpartum Depression

Update Date: Jan 03, 2014 09:53 AM EST
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Postpartum depression is a form of moderate to severe depression that occurs more frequently in women than men after birth. The condition can manifest immediately or up to a year after birth. Doctors and researchers have reasoned that during childbirth, the combination of many emotions, ranging from fear and anxiety to happiness and excitement, could take a toll on the new mothers or fathers. In a new study, researchers from Finland found that women who had a fear of childbirth were more susceptible to postpartum depression.

For this study, the international team of researchers examined the data from the Finnish medical birth register, the Finnish congenital malformations register and the Finnish hospital discharge register. The Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare monitors these databases. The team had access to information on a total of 511,422 single births that occurred within the country between 2002 and 2010.

The researchers discovered that women with a history of depression had a higher risk of suffering from postpartum depression. Roughly 5.3 percent of women with a history of depression had postpartum depression. Only around one-third of the diagnosed cases of women with postpartum depression did not have a history of depression. The researchers found that for women who suffered from postpartum depression but did not have a history of depression, their fear of childbirth roughly tripled their risk of suffering from the condition. The researchers stated that other potential risk factors were Caesarean section, early birth and major congenital anomaly. Furthermore, risk of developing postpartum depression was greatest after the first birth. Overall, 0.3 percent of the new mothers had postpartum depression within the time frame.

This study's findings suggest that preventative measures could be taken to reduce a woman's risk of developing postpartum depression, which can severely hinder the new mother's ability to care for the newborn. Postpartum depression could also hinder the development of a connection between parent and child, which could affect the child's mental development and overall health.

The team was compiled of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio University Hospital, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, Copenhagen University Hospital, the Nordic School of Public Health in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Emory University in the USA.

The study was published in BMJ Open.

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