If your due date is fast approaching, then you’re probably far from relaxed. I know I was a nervous wreck, especially in the final four weeks leading up to the big day. Not only do you have to give yourself a crash course on the basics of parentingâ€”diapering, feeding, sleeping, keeping a baby aliveâ€”but you also have to prepare for the not-so-small-task of gracefully shooting a baby out of your vag hole.
If this is your first baby, that thought alone may be enough to stop you in your pregnant tracks. I spent a lot, a lot of time thinking about exactly what birth was going to be like since no one can prepare you for it. I also don’t do well with a fear of the unknown and had a very difficult time wrapping my mind around just letting “birth happen” as the Good Lord or Mother Nature intended.
If you’re anything like me, and you have a few butterflies or a majorly aggressive moth rumbling in your stomach at the thought of labor, a recent study may give you one more thing to worry about.
A paper published in the journal BMJ Open confirmed that a fear of childbirth can increase the risk of postpartum depression roughly threefold in women without a history of depression. For women with a history of depression, fear of childbirth increases the risk of PPD fivefold.
These conclusions came from a review of birth and health registers in Finlandâ€”511,422 single-child births from 2002 to 2010. Out of these cases, 0.3%, or 1438 births, involved postpartum depression. This percentage was similar to PPD rates recorded in US studies.
“As expected … two-thirds of all cases occurred in women with a history of depressive symptoms before or during pregnancy,” wrote lead study author Sari Raisanen, an epidemiologist and visiting scholar at Emory University in Atlanta, and her colleagues.
In fact, a history of depression was associated with a 140-fold increase in risk for postpartum depression.
A third of the PPD cases occurred in women who were considered low-risk without any prior history of depression. Researchers concluded that the “single greatest predisposing factor,” after a history of depression, was an expectant mother that had a fear of childbirth.
To me, these findings are intriguing. I didn’t have postpartum depression, though I did have the baby blues. I didn’t have a crippling fear of childbirth, though I did have anxiety leading up to it.
In my personal story that has absolutely no impact on this research, I had two natural births, one at a birthing center and one at home. Although I was quite nervous about giving birth, I also took a lot of time to mentally prepare for it by focusing on positive outcomes and feeling empowered about my body.
This may sound hippy-dippy to some, but it does jibe with the advice given by many physiciansâ€”if you are afraid of pain during labor, your body will tense up, and you will naturally experience even more pain. It’s a vicious cycle. I don’t have any scientific answers for how to address a fear of childbirth, but the subject is worth talking about more openly, especially related to postpartum depression.
(photo:Â Getty Images)