Intense Pain After Childbirth Can Trigger Postnatal Depression

Postpartum depression. Let’s not sugar coat it; it’s a bastard of a thing.

We’re warned during pregnancy about how easily it can creep up on us. But we’re rarely told WHY it takes hold so easily.

Until now. This incredible new research is showing why some women experience postnatal depression and why others don’t. And the answer is actually quite simple.

pain after birth

Pain after birth

The research looks at the link between pain and postpartum depression (PPD). And not just labour pain but pain after birth. AKA what you experience in the hours/days/weeks AFTER popping out a baby.

Just how rough they feel once baby arrives surprises many new mums. After birth pains are no joke. Add in recovery from a c-section or a nasty tear and it’s no wonder the ‘pregnancy waddle’ can hang around well into the fourth trimester.

It’s this pain, and the level of it, that research shows has a significant impact on the mental health of new mums. The higher your rating on the postpartum pain scale? The more chance you have of possibly developing PPD.

Researchers reviewed the pain scores of 4,327 first-time mums and compared them against individual scores on the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale. Mums with postpartum depression suffered more pain related complaints while recovering from birth. They often needed additional pain meds to help them manage.

pain after birth

Keeping pain under control

Dr Jie Zhou, lead author of the study and assistant professor of anaesthesia at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explains that pain DURING labour has been heavily researched but that the pain women experience during recovery has taken a back seat.

“For many years, we have been concerned about how to manage labor pain, but recovery pain after labor and delivery often is overlooked,” he says. “Our research suggests we need to focus more on helping new mothers manage pain after the baby is born.”

For mothers everywhere offered a Nurofen for the excruciating pain of a c-section wound or a perineum that looks like its gone 10 rounds with an NMA fighter, it’s a no brainer. Pain, especially when not well managed, can put a real dampener on your first days and weeks of being a new mother. And it’s this crucial period that can pave the way for maternal mental health.

The solution? All the drugs. Okay, not really. But Dr Zhou believes each new mum needs medication assessed individually, instead of the usual “she’ll be right” assumption.

The compelling research was presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2018 annual meeting this month.

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

The missing piece of the PPD puzzle

Of course there are other factors to consider when it comes to PPD. There’s strong evidence that birth experience, past mental health history and even weight all play a role in the development of postnatal depression. But the more pieces of the puzzle that science solves, the better the chances of helping women beat PPD.

Do you know someone experiencing PPD? They might like to know about the breakthrough medication offering hope to women with postnatal depression.

Avatar of Naomi Foxall

Naomi is 3/4 latte drinking, peanut butter obsessed former magazine girl who now does stuff with words for a living while juggling 2.5 kids, 2 cats, 1 rabbit, husband and an unhealthy obsession with slow cooking.

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