Emotional Wellbeing

Emergency C-Sections Increase Your Risk of Postnatal Depression

Emergency c-sections can leave new mums feeling flat, but now it seems they’re even more problematic than we realised.

A major new study has revealed that first-mums who have emergency caesareans are 15 percent more likely to experience mental health problems post birth.

The University of York released the findings this week. And doctors hope it means more support for women who end up giving birth via emergency c-section.

Emergency c-sections

Emergency caesareans (and elective ones) are on the rise right around the world. England has about 25,000 unplanned c-section deliveries a year (out of 165,000 births). Australia has one of the highest rates of c-section births in the worldalmost 1 in 3 births are via c-section – but it’s not known how many are unplanned.

An emergency c-section usually happens when there are complications during labour. And that means added stress for the new mum, who can feel she has lost control. It’s often a much longer surgical procedure than an elective c-section too and the physical recovery can be harder. That’s why medical staff recommend staying in hospital longer if you give birth via emergency caesarean. But it’s not just your body you should be concerned about. Emergency c-section mums really need to make their mental wellbeing a big priority as well.


First-time mums

The new study from the University of York looked at data from 5,000 first-time mothers from around the UK, compared to previous smaller studies based on data from single hospitals. Specifically, the study examined the effects of the emergency c-section on first-time mums. It looked at their psychological wellbeing in the first nine months after delivery. Doctors also looked at differences in hospital resources and staffing and the mental health history of the mothers.

A postnatal depression link

According to study author Dr Valentina Tonei, their findings show a link between emergency c-sections and postnatal depression. She says first-time mums delivering babies this way are 15 percent more at risk of postnatal depression.

“This has important implications for public health policy, with new mothers who give birth this way in need of increased support,” says Dr Tonei.

“The effects of postnatal depression can be far reaching, with previous studies suggesting that it can have a negative effect, not just on the health of the mother and her relationships with her partner and family members, but also on the baby’s development. Mothers who experience postnatal depression are also less likely to go on to have more children.”

“Unplanned caesareans may have a particularly negative psychological impact on mothers because they are unexpected, usually mentally and physically stressful and associated with a loss of control and unmatched expectations.”

Unexpected knock-on effect

Unfortunately, not enough people know about the negative mental health effects that can happen after an emergency c-section. But Dr Tonei hopes the study’s findings will change this.

“While the financial costs associated with this surgical procedure are well recognised, there has been less focus on the hidden health costs borne by mothers and their families.”

We hope this new evidence brings the impact on mothers’ mental health into the spotlight.”

If you are suffering from postnatal depression or other mental health issues caused by motherhood, please contact Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA).

It’s not the first time researchers have found a link between childbirth complications and depression in new mums. Another lesser known condition called postnatal psychosis can also affect women after childbirth.

Avatar of Susan Taylor

Susan is a Sydney based writer and mum of three highly energetic boys who keep her firmly on her toes (and slightly bonkers). When she’s not writing or trying to keep it all together she’s probably reading, watching Netflix or having a sneaky massage.

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