– EN Fitness & Wellbeing – Postpartum depression may be triggered by pain following childbirth, as opposed to pain during labour, researchers have claimed. 
According to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), the condition affects more than one in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. While it is perfectly normal to feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth, these so-called “baby blues” shouldn’t last for more than two weeks. Medical professionals recommend seeking help if symptoms last longer, or start later than this.
Past studies have suggested that the pain associated with giving birth may increase the risk of postpartum depression, but remained unclear regarding which part of the labour process acts as the source of the problem.
However, new research conducted by staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School is the first to differentiate postpartum pain from labour and delivery pain, and identify it as a significant risk factor for postpartum depression.
“For many years, we have been concerned about how to manage labour pain, but recovery pain after labour and delivery often is overlooked,” explained lead author and assistant professor of anaesthesia, Dr. Jie Zhou, during the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2018 annual meeting. “Our research suggests we need to focus more on helping new mothers manage pain after the baby is born.”
Dr. Zhou and his team reviewed pain scores (from the start of labour to hospital discharge) for over 4,000 first-time mothers between 1 June 2015 and 31 December 2017, before comparing pain scores to the mothers’ Edinburgh postnatal depression scale (EPDS) scores one week after delivery.
They found that postpartum depression was significantly associated with higher postpartum pain scores, while mothers with postpartum depression displayed more pain-related complaints during recovery and often required additional medication. These women were also more likely to have delivered their baby by caesarean section, and more frequently reported inadequate postpartum pain relief.
“While ibuprofen and similar pain medications are considered adequate for pain control after childbirth, clearly some women need additional help managing pain,” said Dr. Zhou. “We need to do a better job identifying who is at risk for postpartum pain and ensure they have adequate postpartum care.”