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Pregnancy problems fuel depression

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth could lead to a higher risk of postnatal depression, a study has found.

New mothers were found to be at higher risk of experiencing a period of depression following childbirth if they encountered complications such as pre-eclampsia.

The risk is higher depending on how many separate complications are experienced, the study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, found.

Data for nearly 5,000 women were analysed by the Dutch team behind the research, assessing each woman's post-pregnancy feelings of depression against the number of complications that they encountered.

The women were asked to score their level of postnatal depression anecdotally, with 0 representing no depression, and 30 meaning very depressed.

The team found that women admitted to hospital during their pregnancy were on average twice as likely to suffer from postnatal depression as those who were only admitted during delivery.

The nature of the complication also had a bearing on the risk factor, with those who experienced pre-eclampsia more than twice as likely to experience depression as those who did not, while undergoing emergency caesarean increased the risk 1.5 times.

Health complications with the baby during or after childbirth also increased the chances of suffering from postnatal depression to a similar degree.

The risk appeared to grow higher in accordance with the number of complications, with those encountering four or five seeing their chances rise fivefold.

Of the 8% (396) who admitted suffering from postnatal depression, many were younger women with lower levels of education.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology