A new study sheds some light on postpartum depression risk factors in new moms. Researchers involved in the study say that women who give birth in the spring or winter are less likely to develop PPD than woman who deliver in the summer or fall. They also found a connection between gestational age and PPD. Additionally, a connection was found that shows an increase in PPD in women who didn’t use anesthesia during delivery.

The study addressed postpartum depression risk factors in over 20,000 women who delivered babies between June 2015 and August 2017.

Of the 20,169 women who participated in the study, 817 developed postpartum depression after their baby was born. Lead study author Dr. Jie Zhou, M.D., said that researchers want to find out if certain factors influence a woman’s risk of developing PPD. If they can be identified, women may be able to avoid them, and decrease their risk of developing postpartum depression.

The time of year a woman gave birth, the gestational age of the pregnancy (how far along the woman is before delivering), and whether or not the woman used anesthesia during the delivery could be postpartum depression risk factors, according to the data collected.

Authors suggest that the “protective mechanism” seen in women who delivered in colder months could be attributed to getting more enjoyment out of seasonal indoor activities. If you deliver in the winter, you’re better mentally prepared to hunker down inside with the baby, since outdoor activities are limited.

The length of pregnancy was also a factor in the study. Women who give birth to full-term, mature, healthy babies were at a lower risk for developing PPD.

Dr. Zhou says, “It is expected that the mother will do better and be less mentally stressed when delivering a mature, healthy baby.” Having a baby is already incredibly stressful. Having a premature or medically fragile baby can add to that stress, and increase the mother’s risk of developing PPD.

The study identified a surprising postpartum depression risk factor: whether or not the mom used anesthesia during delivery.

The authors say women who did not use anesthesia were at a higher risk of developing PPD. They say this could be because of the pain associated with labor and delivery. Some women may experience trauma during a painful delivery, which in turn makes them more susceptible to developing PPD. Strangely enough, there was no connection found between the type of delivery and risk for PPD.

Postpartum depression affects at least 10% of women after the birth of a child. While it’s typically blamed on a combination of hormone changes, fatigue, and the psychological challenges associated with childbirth and caring for a newborn, identifying other possible risk factors can help women be better prepared. Obviously every woman is different, and there are several factors that may contribute to PPD and other postpartum disorders. But the more we know, the better we can do, for ourselves and moms everywhere.

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