Health In Focus
  • Labor pain can lead to a lot of anxiety in women and the associated trauma can lead to postpartum depression.
  • A new study has found that the use of epidural lowers not only labor pain but also the incidence of postpartum depression.
  • The use of epidural lowers trauma associated with child birth and promises to free new mothers from the shackles of postpartum depression.

Motherhood and the prospect of having a child can be a fulfilling moment for any woman but the pain endured during labor is an important aspect that can lead to a lot of anxiety. However, with the use of epidural, the stark pain of labor is considerably reduced.
Epidural Found to Numb Labor Pain and Postpartum-Depression

A significant advantage of using epidural is that, unlike anesthesia, the mother is aware of the labor but the drug blocks certain nerve impulses and there is numbness only in certain regions.

  • More than 50% of women in America use epidural
  • Provide relief during labor
  • Allows the woman to walk around the room
  • Aids in the mother enjoying the labor

The pain that is endured during labor can be so severe that women feel traumatized for many days with incidence of post-partum depression . Some women delay their pregnancy or may avoid getting pregnant due to the pain involved during labor.

The lead investigator Dr Grace Lim who is the director of obstetric anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said "Labor 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 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."

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a psychological illness that is seen in among 13% of new mothers within the first year of child birth. This illness could be brought about due to an earlier existing depression or it could be induced due to trauma faced during labor.

Women with postpartum depression could exhibit the following symptoms:
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Bouts of crying
  • Low self esteem
  • Inability to take care of the child
  • Frequent headaches
  • Withdrawal from friends and family

This form of depression should be detected early and the right support provided to the mother to help her overcome it. The current study examines a correlation between the use of epidural and the onset of postpartum depression.

Epidural and Postpartum Depression

In the study, the researchers examined the data of 201 women who used epidural during labor. These study participants were selected after controlling for other factors that could lead to postpartum depression like previous episodes of depression and extensive tissue during labor.

The pain that the women felt during start of labor was recorded on a scale from 1 to 10, the Person Improvement In Pain (PIP) was recorded during various stages of labor while the postpartum depression levels were recorded using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale(EPDS) after a period of 6 weeks postdelivery.

The study found that the higher the PIP score, the lower the EPDS score, indicating that alleviating labor pain could considerably lower the risk for postpartum depression.

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

Motherhood is a special time when the new mother begins to get used to the baby and the responsibilities that are associated with parenting. This time could be eroded by postpartum depression that could affect the mother's health psychologically and lead to poor bonding with the newborn.

This study highlights a possible effort towards eliminating postpartum depression. The use of epidural is poor in India due to lack of awareness and the additional costs that may be incurred. However, the benefit of lowered risk of postpartum depression after the use of epidural is an important aspect that should encourage the use of epidural, provided further studies concur with the current study.

References :
  1. Depression during and after pregnancy fact sheet - (
  2. Postpartum Depression - (

Source: Medindia

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