A new study shows that giving pain relief may actually protect new mums from post-natal depression.

Researchers suggest effective pain relief – in the form of an epidural, the injection in the back that numbs the nerves and stops you feeling pain – could reduce post-natal depression.

During the research, medical professionals reviewed the past records of 201 women who used epidural analgesia and had their pain assessed using a 0-10 scale during labour.

They calculated the percent improvement in pain throughout labour after the implementation of epidural analgesia. Depression risk was assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale six weeks after childbirth. Researchers found the higher the PIP scores, the lower the EPDS scores.

“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,” said Grace Lim, M.D., director of obstetric anaesthesiology at Magee Women’s Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre and lead investigator on the study.

“We found that certain women who experience good pain relief from epidural analgesia are less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms in the postpartum period.”

The researchers controlled for factors already known to increase the risk for postpartum depression, including pre-existing depression and anxiety, as well as post-delivery pain caused by tissue trauma during childbirth. After accounting for these factors, the study found that in some women, labour pain was still a significant risk factor for postpartum depression symptoms. And therefore, alleviating this pain might help reduce the risk for postpartum depression.

“Although we found an association between women who experience less pain during labour and lower risk for postpartum depression, we do not know if effective pain control with epidural analgesia will assure avoidance of the condition,” said Dr. Lim. “Postpartum depression can develop from a number of things including hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, social support, and a history of psychiatric disorders.”

Additional research is needed to identify which women are more likely to experience severe labour pain and who would benefit the most from effective labour pain-control strategies to help reduce the risk and impact of pain on postpartum recovery.

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  • Interesting. This is a small research though, so it’s a question if it’s true…although I can imagine that it can have a psychological effect indeed.


  • Wow, if indeed this is true, then that could truly try to get rid of PPD. Though I don’t believe this. Depression is a chemical imbalance, so how could pain relief fix that? It is probably just a HIGH correlation,


  • One of the SA Hospitals is trying a new pain relief method for use during labour.
    I know a lot of Mums who have suffered ongoing discomfort in their backs after having epidurals………


  • That makes sense, the more traumatic the birth the more likely you are not to bond with your baby and get postnatal depression. That’s my own personal thought!


  • A very interesting and promising research!!


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