Pregnancy can be a rollercoaster of emotions from elation to worry and ‘baby blues’ or depression are not uncommon. However when a pregnancy is unplanned it brings additional stresses and not just while carrying the baby. It seems the risk of depression is four times more likely to suffer a year after giving birth.
This new study was conducted at the University of North Carolina prenatal clinic and based on women attending being questioned about their pregnancy and whether it was intended, mistimed or unwanted. There were 433 women (64%) with an intended pregnancy, 207 (30%) with a mistimed pregnancy and 40 (6%) with an unwanted pregnancy. Unintended pregnancy was defined as both mistimed and unwanted pregnancies. Data were analysed for 688 women at three months and 550 women at twelve months.
Results show that postpartum depression was more likely in women with unintended pregnancies at both three months (11% vs. 5%) and twelve months (12% vs. 3%). There has been previous research which focused on the effect on health of the child when a pregnancy was unintended, but this is the first to look at the effect on the mother.
Dr Rebecca Mercier, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of North Carolina and co-author of the research said: “While many elements may contribute to postpartum depression, the results of this study show that unintended pregnancy resulting in live birth could also be a contributing factor. Unintended pregnancy carried to term may have a long term effect on women.”
Unintended pregnancy has been linked to poor prenatal care, high risk pregnancy behaviours, increased rates of preterm birth and low birth rate, poor social outcomes in childhood and increased medical costs.
How can you help?
Unplanned pregnancy is not something that doctors factor in to their assessment, but women with any previous history of depression are know to be at a much greater risk for post partum depression. In the initial stages counselling could be very helpful and support offered to reduce the stress that such a pregnancy incurs. A good autoimmune diet can also help elevate mood and provide a good foundation for dealing with the mood swings that naturally occur during pregnancy.
After giving birth it is important to maintain good progesterone levels as the sudden and dramatic drop that occurs at that point can be sufficient to trigger depression in women who are not at risk or particularly vulnerable.