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Health & Pregnancy

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C-Sections Not Linked to Women's Depression

Baby's Delivery Method Doesn't Affect Postpartum Depression, Says Study
WebMD Health News

Feb. 24, 2005 -- A pregnant woman's risk of depression after giving birth isn't affected by the way her baby is delivered, say U.K. researchers.

"There is no reason for women at risk of postnatal depression to be managed differently with regard to mode of delivery," they write in BMJ Online First.

The finding comes from a study of more than 14,600 women who gave birth between April 1991 and December 1992. The type of delivery -- vaginal, planned cesarean section, or emergency caesarean section -- and the women's history of depression were noted. The women also completed a depression questionnaire eight weeks after giving birth.

About 80% of the women had a spontaneous vaginal delivery and 11% had an assisted vaginal delivery using medical instruments. Emergency cesarean sections (C-sections) were performed on 5% of participants, and 3.6% had a planned C-section.

Past studies have suggested a link between emergency C-sections and postnatal depression. Other work has indicated that elective C-sections may lower postnatal depression risk, say the researchers, who included Roshni Patel, clinical academic training fellow at the University of Bristol's obstetrics and gynecology department.

But that's not what Patel's team found. Their results showed that the type of delivery didn't affect postnatal depression risk.

In women who had planned a vaginal delivery, those who delivered by either vaginal delivery or emergency C-section had similar risks of postpartum depression.

"Women who plan vaginal delivery and require emergency caesarean section or assisted vaginal delivery can be reassured that three is no reason to believe that they are at increased risk of postnatal depression," says the study.

Neither having a history of depression nor depression during pregnancy was linked to emergency C-sections.

"Elective caesarean section does not protect against postnatal depression," write the researchers.

Women, Motherhood, and Depression

Depression is widespread in the U.S., affecting more than 9% of the adult population in any given year, says the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH). About twice as many women as men have depression, says the NIMH.

While motherhood and pregnancy are often joyful, these women are not immune to depression. "Many women are particularly vulnerable after the birth of a baby," says the NIMH's booklet, Depression. "The hormonal and physical changes, as well as the added responsibility of a new life, can be factors."

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