The ‘Season’ for Postpartum Depression

A new study says the condition is more common in certain seasons and among women who did not have an epidural. A local expert weighs in.

Could your risk for postpartum depression be affected by the season during which you give birth? What about whether or not you got an epidural?

It’s possible, at least according to one recent study.

Researchers found that women who gave birth in the winter or spring were less likely to suffer from postpartum depression compared to women who delivered in the fall or summer. The condition was more likely in women who had no pain medication during their delivery and among women who gave birth at an earlier gestational age, according to a press release from the the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

“We wanted to find out whether there are certain factors influencing the risk of developing postpartum depression that may be avoided to improve women’s health both physically and mentally,” lead study author Dr. Jie Zhou, M.D. explained in a press release about the study, which reviewed the medical records of 20,169 women.

Certain study findings lined up with expectations, such as the lower risk for postpartum depression among women who gave birth to full-term babies.

“It is expected that the mother will do better and be less mentally stressed when delivering a mature, healthy baby,” Zhou says in the press release.

Other findings, such as the relationship between different seasons and postpartum depression risk, could be more difficult to learn from.

Dr. Mark Werner, an OB-GYN at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, says the study could be just another piece of the puzzle in helping people understand postpartum depression.

“Everything affects it. There are a lot of factors,” Werner points out, noting that even men can be affected. “I would say everybody gets a little bit of postpartum depression. How can you not? Your life changes, in a good way … but there’s a lot of changes.”

So it’s not surprising that seemingly unrelated factors like anesthesia use during delivery or the time of year could affect someone’s risk of being affected by the common condition.

“I think the best way to mitigate postpartum depression is to make sure that (women) get help,” Werner says. “That they eat, try to get rest, take turns on getting up and try to get some type of outside walking or activity. Take the baby with them, go somewhere, get out a little bit and really try to get back to some type of routine that they were in the past.”

While women have some control over certain factors, like the decision to get an epidural, many of the factors involved in this recent study are simply out of anyone’s control.

“You can’t change the season,” Werner says, though teachers, athletes and people in other professions sometimes try to time their pregnancies around certain times of the year. But for most people, “you can’t really time that part of it.”

And even the decision to use anesthesia or not has many factors involved outside of the possible connection to postpartum depression risk.

“Everybody has their own ideas on how they want to labor,” Werner says, noting that this is best left to the patient.

Whatever the case, postpartum depression is a real issue that women should be prepared for, regardless of their individual labor and delivery circumstances. Everyone is at risk, Werner says.

“I really think that everybody gets (postpartum depression), just in different, varying degrees,” he says. “We all like our routines. Change is hard, and it takes a while to adjust it out. Every doctor should talk to their patients before they deliver the baby.”


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