While postpartum depression occurs for a variety of reasons, not many studies have tried to link pain during childbirth with the incidence of postpartum depression. A recent study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia says a link exists.
The researchers studied 214 women, 107 of whom received an epidural during labor per the patient's request. Each of the 214 women were followed through six weeks postpartum. Researchers found that 14 percent of women who had the epidural had postpartum depression and 34.6 percent of women who didn't have the epidural had postpartum depression. The study also noted that women who attended childbirth classes during pregnancy and who breastfed after delivery also had decreased risks of postpartum depression.
While this study happened to only look at pain relief via epidurals with natural birth, it's a great first step in evaluating the importance of pain management in the childbirth process. The researchers stressed that more study is needed. When considering your own birth plan, make sure to address pain managment. While there are medication interventions for pain control, you can also have a pain plan if you choose to have a natural birth. Talk to your doctor, midwife or partner about different options for pain management that might be available, such as changing positions, birthing balls, water, massage or breathing techniques. And check out our "3 Approaches to Make Giving Birth Easier."