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Post-natal depression 'more likely for women with persistent pain'

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Women who experience persistent pain after childbirth are more likely to develop postnatal depression, new research suggests.

A study by researchers in Singapore found women who experienced pain more than four weeks after giving birth had “significantly higher” scores during post-natal depression screening, compared with those who had either no pain or those whose pain was no longer present four weeks after.

“Presence of persistent pain or higher anxiety during postpartum period are positively associated with higher scores on post-natal depression tests”

Wei Du

A total of 138 women were included in the study – all of whom had received epidural pain relief during the deliveries of their firstborns.

They were assessed over the phone six to eight weeks after childbirth and were defined as having post-natal depression if they scored 12 or higher on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.

Post-natal depression was found in 5.8% of the women. Patients with pain beyond four weeks scored on average 2.44 points higher than those whose pain was resolved by four weeks, and on average 4.07 points higher than those who experienced no pain following birth.

Women were also assessed for anxiety and psychological vulnerability.

“We concluded that greater pain vulnerability and stress during intrapartum period, and presence of persistent pain or higher anxiety during postpartum period are positively associated with higher scores on post-natal depression tests,” said Wei Du, a medical student at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore who helped to lead the study.

Dr Ban Leong Sng, senior consultant at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Singapore, who co-authored the research paper, added: “The research findings support the need to address pain comprehensively to lessen the risk of developing post-natal depression.”

The research was presented earlier this week as a poster (see attached PDF below) at this year’s World Congress of Anaesthesiologists in Hong Kong.

Following the findings, the research team is now conducting a larger study to evaluate the impact of pain and post-natal depression in pregnant women.

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