Depression and pregnancyAn estimated 50 to 80 percent of all women who give birth experience some degree of postpartum depression in the first year after delivery. Women who have been diagnosed previously with depression run the highest risk of developing postpartum depression but a recent study from Finland indicates there’s another group of women at high risk, too: women who fear labor and childbirth.

Postpartum depression is characterized as a range of symptoms that include anxiety, irritation, restlessness, and tearfulness. It can strike at any time during the first year after giving birth. Severity of symptoms ranges from minor to severe but, in extreme cases, dangerous depression psychosis can develop.

Historical evidence confirms the link between pre-pregnancy diagnosis of depression and a woman’s likelihood of developing postpartum depression after having a child; until recently, however, there’s been no effective way to determine who will have a depression diagnosis after childbirth when there’s no evidence of depression before pregnancy. Any form of depression is best treated as soon after symptoms appear as possible. Knowing which women are most likely to develop it after having a child allows physicians to know which patients to monitor most closely.

The Finnish study study involved the post-delivery emotional status of women from 2002 through 2010. The study results indicate:

  • 0.3 percent of all mothers in the study who gave birth to a singleton baby were diagnosed with postpartum depression during the study period.
  • Of this 0.3 percent, 5.3 percent of them had a history of depression.
  • Of this 0.3 percent, 0.1 percent did not have a history of depression.

When compared with women who gave birth and had no history of depression before or after giving birth, those who were physician-diagnosed during pregnancy to have a fear of childbirth were three times more likely to develop postpartum depression than those voicing no fear. Other factors associated with postpartum depression include:

Many studies involving the emotional status or mental well-being of a study participant rely on individual reporting of symptoms. This study differs in that it was based on patients who were diagnosed with postpartum depression by a physician, with supporting medical records to confirm diagnosis.

Source: Raisanen, Sari, et al. “Fear of childbirth predicts postpartum depression: a population-based analysis of 511,422 singleton births in Finland.” BMJ Open. BMJ Publishing Group Ltd. Nov 28, 2013. Web. Jan 16, 2014.