Childbirth is painful. Whether you are passing an 8-pound baby from your vaginal canal or undergoing a serious operation, the act is difficult, arduous and agonizing. But doctors know this already, which is why pain management during labor and delivery is of the utmost importance. However, a new study conducted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists reveals that postpartum pain care may be just as important.
In fact, the pain one experiences after childbirth, rather than during it, may significantly contribute to postpartum depression.
The study, presented at The Anesthesiology Annual Meeting, analyzed the pain scores of 4,327 women from the start of labor through their discharge. The researchers then compared the mothers' pain scores to their Edinburgh postnatal depression scale scores one week later. What they found was that women who had higher postpartum pain scores also had higher incidences of postpartum depression.
Lead author of the study and assistant professor of anesthesia at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Dr. Jie Zhou, said in a statement that this data suggests doctors need to be doing more for new moms.
"For many years, we have been concerned about how to manage labor pain, but recovery pain after labor and delivery often is overlooked," Zhou said. However, "our research suggests we need to focus more on helping new mothers manage pain after the baby is born… [and] we need to do a better job identifying who is at risk for postpartum pain and ensure they have adequate postpartum care."
That said, the study also notes that a number of factors can contribute to one's postpartum depression risk; for instance, postpartum depression is more common among women who are obese or overweight. It is more common when a new mother suffers from a perineal tear, a rip near the vaginal opening. Postpartum depression is more common in women who have a history of depression, anxiety and/or chronic pain, and it is also more likely to occur when women give birth to smaller babies with lower Apgar scores, a scoring system used to assess the physical health of newborns.
However, in spite of all the other factors, identifying this factor may help doctors to treat (and even prevent) postpartum depression, and that is good news for moms and moms-to-be everywhere.