Fear of childbirth could heighten risk of postnatal depression

A fear of giving birth could be the best indicator yet of whether a new mum is at risk of developing postnatal depression, news-medical.netreports.

A new study from researchers in Finland has found that mothers who are overly fearful about what awaits them during childbirth could be significantly more at risk of developing postnatal (sometimes known as postpartum) depression once it is all over.

The research, which saw 511,422 mothers studied between 2002 and 2010, found that 0.3 per cent of all mothers who delivered a singleton birth went on to develop full postnatal depression. For those with a history of depression, however, the figure was much higher, at 5.3 per cent.

As many as 80 per cent, however, may experience feelings of sadness or alienation, even if this doesn't go on to become full postnatal depression.

One of the most interesting parts of the study came when looking into the trend for women who had previously reported a fear of giving birth. In fact, women in this category were deemed to be three times more likely to develop depression than those who took childbirth largely in their stride.

Noting this trend, researchers claimed that doctors may be able to use this to their advantage in future, either by warning expectant mothers with a fear of childbirth just what could be around the corner, or by simply using it to more accurately diagnose the condition, medicalxpress.com notes.