The Pre- and Peri-Natal Environment and Depression in Mothers and Neonates

by John A. Speyrer

According to a study conducted at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, it was found that women have an almost doubled risk of developing postnatal depression if they had received some type of emergency delivery. These women were compared with others who had a hospital birth or other type of more or less, normal birth. [ See Emergency Delivery Linked to Postnatal Depression Risk ]

The original data was from a report of 246 women who took part in a Malaysian study of maternal childbirth depression.

Fifty-five of the participants had undergone emergency delivery. The remaining 191 had normal non-emergency delivery. All of the mother completed the Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale about 6 weeks after delivery.

Other than the emergency delivery, each of the two cohort groups had insignificant differences between them. The gestation periods, ages, birth weight, Apgar score results, etc. were very similar. The result of the test showed that the women who received emergency deliveries had a 1.8 fold risk of being depressed after giving birth, in comparison to the other group whose members had not undergone an emergency delivery.

The article, which appeared in The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research concluded: "Compared with women having non-emergency delivery, woman having emergency delivery had about twice the risk of developing postnatal depression."

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The data derived from this study has further implications. A number of other revealing studies could be made of the neonates themselves. A examination could be made of the effects of the emergency delivery on the babies rather than on the mothers. Perhaps, such a study would have had more serious implications because of the greater sensitivity and susceptibility to depression of the neonates both as children and later as adults.

Another interesting study could zero-in on the capacity of these unnaturally birthed mothers, to being a "good enough" parent. The important bonding period between the mother and her child would obviously be affected by the period of recuperation needed by the mother because of the obstetrical intervention she endured. Other studies have shown that obstetric complications and deliveries have a pernicious effect on newborns. [See The Psychological Effects of Obstetrical Interventions by William R. Emerson]

It has been shown that up to twenty percent of mothers suffer from postpartum depression.

A number of studies have shown that the infant suffers while being cared for by such mothers. An article in the January, 2000, issue of The Lancet found that birth trauma (including, assisted delivery) results in an infant being more sensitive to pain. The crying response as well as cortisol levels was how sensitivity to pain was measured. This sensitivity remains into adulthood as a greater number of pain receptors are formed inutero and infancy. [See Study Points To The Effects of Depressed Mother On Their Infants ]

Rat studies have shown that pregnant mother rats transmitted their anxiety to their fetuses which resulted in a lowering of their adult innate intelligence. It is logical to assume that stress in pregnant human mothers would have the same effect. [ See Rat Pups Respond Favorably To Maternal Attention Study: Findings May Be Applicable to Humans ] and [ Stress in Mother Has Learning Deficit In Offspring ]

These and many other research projects have shown how the womb environment can effect the developing fetus.

Emotional disturbances, felt depression by the mother, and even attempted abortions are sensed by the fetus and can all produce inutero depression. Even if the mother-to-be is grieving as a result of losing a parent or is nursing a parent who is dying, the overwhelming sorrow that she feels can be transmitted to her fetus.

Being born unwanted can also affect one's well-being and susceptibility to adult depression. [Also see Frank Lake's Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome: An Analysis, Chap. 2, page 69 in Stephen Maret's Ph.D. Dissertation]

A recommended Irish website dealing with these and kindred subjects in the field of Pre- and Peri-natal Psychotherapy may be accessed at: - Amethyst Resource for Human Development.

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