Women With Ongoing Pain After Giving Birth More Prone to Postpartum Depression

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Oct 15, 2018

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Doctors and researchers have already known that women who experience painful childbirths may be more at risk of developing postpartum depression. But childbirth is practically synonymous with pain — and a new study is the first to attempt to get a little more specific, exploring precisely which pain at which point during childbirth is related to postpartum depression. It’s findings? That pain after delivery, specifically, is most closely linked with postpartum depression.

Women with postpartum depression reported more pain after giving birth and were more likely to require additional pain management — but not necessarily to receive it. Interestingly, these women were also more likely to have delivered by C-section.  The researchers say their findings should be used to better inform monitoring and treatment of women’s pain after delivery, which could potentially preempt or manage postpartum depression, a much stigmatized condition that affects nearly a quarter of new mothers in India.

Read: Some Doctors See Pain as Just a Symptom of Being Female

“For many years, we have been concerned about how to manage labor pain, but recovery pain after labor and delivery often is overlooked,” said Dr. Jie Zhou, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor of anesthesia at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston. “Our research suggests we need to focus more on helping new mothers manage pain after the baby is born.”

Pain after giving birth was differentiated from pain during childbirth, and pain during labor, in this study, presented at a recent national conference of anesthesiology in the US. Zhou and colleagues asked more than 4,300 first-time mothers to rank their pain leading up to and during childbirth. They then compared these results to the same women’s pain ranking during their screening for postnatal depression symptoms one week after delivery.

Postpartum depression has many contributing factors, and indeed for some women, it may actually start before childbirth.  But pain is one factor that can be preemptively managed, Zhou says.

“While ibuprofen and similar pain medications are considered adequate for pain control after childbirth, clearly some women need additional help managing pain,” Zhou said. “We need to do a better job identifying who is at risk for postpartum pain and ensure they have adequate postpartum care.”

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Written By Liesl Goecker

Liesl Goecker is The Swaddle’s managing editor and has been living and writing in Mumbai since 2010. She is passionate about women’s rights, everyone’s health, and caffeine.

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