The link between an emergency c section and postnatal depression risk

A mother and newborn baby.

A new study from the University of York has revealed that first-time mothers who give birth in an unplanned emergency c section are fifteen percent more likely to experience postnatal depression.

The study’s author is calling for more mental health support for women who deliver their babies via emergency caesarean (or emergency c section), a surgical procedure which is usually carried out due to complications during labour.

The author of the study, Dr Valentina Tonei from the Department of Economics at the University of York, said: “This has important implications for public health policy, with new mothers who give birth this way in need of increased support. The effects of postnatal depression can be far reaching, with previous studies suggesting that it can have a negative effect, not just on the health of the mother and her relationships with her partner and family members, but also on the baby’s development. Mothers who experience postnatal depression are also less likely to go on to have more children.”

The new study

Of the 165,000 births in England every year, there are around 25,000 unplanned c section deliveries. Previous studies have sample sizes from single hospitals. This studied looked at data from 5,000 first-time mothers from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which is a representative study of the UK population.

By taking other factors, such as the difference in hospital resource and staffing levels and the mental health history of mothers into account, the study isolated the effects of the emergency c section on the psychological wellbeing of mothers in the first nine months after giving birth.

The effect of previous birthing experiences were eliminated by focusing on first time mothers.

Why are unplanned c sections associated with postnatal depression?

Dr Tonei added: “Unplanned caesareans may have a particularly negative psychological impact on mothers because they are unexpected, usually mentally and physically stressful and associated with a loss of control and unmatched expectations.

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