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  • Epidural May Offer More Than Just Childbirth Pain Relief

    A new study claims an epidural may have an added mental benefit -- yes, there is a but.
    by Rachel Perez .
Epidural May Offer More Than Just Childbirth Pain Relief
PHOTO BY medpark.md
  • Giving birth au naturel is often how many pregnant women would like to welcome their child into this world. It certainly shows off a woman's strength and should be celebrated.

    Having said that, there is still nothing wrong if you are considering or downright choosing to receive pain medication during childbirth. You actually have several options for medical pain relief but an epidural is often the most preferred type of anesthesia during childbirth. And it may sway you to picking it even further when you hear this bit of news. 

    A recent study presented at the 2016 Anesthesiology annual meeting in Chicago has claimed that getting an epidural anesthesia can help decrease a new mom’s chances of developing postpartum depression. Researchers from the American Society of Anesthesiologists reviewed medical records of 201 women who had an epidural during childbirth. They assessed their tolerance for pain and the relief they felt after getting an epidural. They checked back with the women six weeks after giving birth and had the moms answer a questionnaire to help evaluate for postpartum depression. They excluded controlled factors already known to increase the risk for postpartum depression, too, such as pre-existing depression and anxiety and post-delivery pain caused by tissue trauma during childbirth.

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    "We found that certain women who experience good pain relief from epidural analgesia are less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms in the postpartum period," said Grace Lim, M.D., director of obstetric anesthesiology at Magee Women’s Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and lead investigator on the study. The more relief a woman got from her epidural, the lower her chances are for developing postnatal depression. Dr. Lim explained that labor pain can be psychologically harmful for some women and thus, could become a factor in the development of postpartum depression.


    Of course, the study does not prove that an epidural will cancel out the chances of having postpartum depression. Labor pain could be just one of the many factors that affect a new mom's chances of getting the condition. A number of things could also contribute to the cause of postnatal depression including hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, social support, breastfeeding success, and a history of psychiatric disorders. Dr. Lim also added that labor pain may be worse for some women than others, and so more research is needed to identify the women who feel extreme pain during childbirth and who will benefit the most from medical pain intervention and its effects on recovery after childbirth.

    A study in 2013 also linked childbirth and delivery pain to postpartum depression. However, a 2015 study found that epidurals could lead to increased chances of postpartum depression -- the complete opposite of the findings of this new research.

    The bottom line: You need to discuss childbirth pain management with your doctor thoroughly and know more about all the options available to you. Pregnancy is different for every woman, and so is pain during delivery. While there are medication interventions for pain control, natural birth also offers alternatives to anesthesia, such as changing positions, birthing balls, water, massage, and breathing techniques, to help reduce the amount of pain a pregnancy woman feels during delivery.

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