Labor & Birth

Easing Labor Pain May Help Reduce Postpartum Depression

Less labor pain, lower risk for postpartum depression?

That's wonderful news!

A recent study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) looked at 201 women who received epidural analgesia, and after controlling for pre-existing depression and anxiety, as well as post-delivery pain caused by tissue trauma during childbirth, the study found those with more pain relief during labor had lower scores on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).  Other studies have also found the same results, such as a 2014 study that found only 14 percent who had an epidural battled postpartum depression, whereas 35 percent of expectant moms who opted for natural childbirth experienced postpartum depression (PPD).

Isn't natural birth safer for moms and babies?

You may have considered the positive impact of natural birth hormones and other ecstatic (if I may use the word) qualities of giving birth without medication.  When appropriate, natural birth comes with less risks for moms and babies. Natural birth can be an amazing experience in which families grow and bond; the same can be said of medicated births. But what about the benefits of natural birth? Both of the cited studies have been presented by the ASA, were not very well rounded, and have focused on epidural anesthesia as the studied form of pain relief. What do we know about the mothers surveyed in the 2014 study who had a natural birth experience? Consider other factors that reduce PPD -- Dr. Crystal Clark says, 

 One of the major risk factors [for depression] is a woman perceiving she doesn't have enough support

What kind of support are mothers planning natural births receiving? What type of preparation are they putting into their birth goals and postpartum planning? What pain relief options are they being encouraged in and using? 

The study found that pain management decreased occurrences of postpartum depression.

The facts we cannot ignore are, some women don't find an epidural to be adequate pain management, and some women prepare for a natural birth and consider it good pain management.

Let's not disqualify the importance of knowledge and preparation, and the impact those have on the birth experience, regardless of what options are used for pain management in labor. 

Read: American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). "Easing labor pain may help reduce postpartum depression in some women." ScienceDaily, 26 October 2016. 

What has your experience been?