Getting an epidural can reduce likelihood of postpartum depression, says study

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Pain management is extremely important for a mother's wellbeing. According to new research from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, epidurals can decrease the likelihood of developing postpartum depression

Like most medical procedures, epidural injections come with their negative side-effects. But they also come with their benefits—apart from pain relief, of course. According to new research, epidurals seem to be linked to less likelihood of postpartum depression, reports CafeMom.

Dr. Grace Lim, the director of obstetric anesthesiology at Magee Women’s Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and lead investigator on the study, explained in a media release that pain can be psychologically harmful for some women. Therefore, pain relief can decrease the chances of some women to develop postpartum depression.

“Labour pain matters more than just for the birth experience”

epidural benefits

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“Labour pain matters more than just for the birth experience. It may be psychologically harmful for some women and play a significant role in the development of postpartum depression,” Dr. Lim said. “We found that certain women who experience good pain relief from epidural analgesia are less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms in the postpartum period.”

Getting an epidural helps keep postpartum depression at bay, but Dr. Lim maintains that it isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent it. Several factors can lead to the development of postpartum depression, including “hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, social support, and a history of psychiatric disorders.”

Just as pain is relative, labour pain is more problematic for some women than others. But there does seem to be a link between epidurals and a decreasing chance of postpartum depression. A 2014 study found that only 14% of 214 women who had an epidural experienced postpartum depression. In contrast, 35% of mothers who opted for natural childbirth struggled with postpartum depression.

“Postpartum pain, anxiety, and depression are often topics women don’t talk about”

epidural benefits

Photo: Shutterstock

Ob-gyn Dr. Kameelah Phillips told CafeMom that epidurals not only help mothers manage their pain during labour, but also help them deal with postpartum pain.

“Reduced postpartum pain is also a big bonus for women with vaginal tears or women who have limited social support,” she explained. “New mothers, especially first-time mothers, often do not anticipate the level of pain that they may experience postpartum. Postpartum pain, anxiety, and depression are often topics women don’t talk about and so they are unprepared for this stage of recovery.”

As for mothers who opted for natural childbirths, just because they did not choose to get medication for pain management does not mean that they are more likely to develop postpartum depression. There are several ways that expectant mothers can manage their pain without an epidural, such as meditation, music therapy, Lamaze, and yoga.

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