Postpartum depression (PPD) is an overwhelmingly sense of sadness or hopelessness that strikes at the worst possible time in a woman's life - right after giving birth to a new baby. A history of general depression is one of strongest risk factors for the condition, but new research now shows that a woman's fear of her impending childbirth might also be linked to the likelihood that she will suffer from postpartum depression.

In the study, which was published on BMJ Open, researchers found that women who reported feeling afraid of childbirth were three times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression after giving birth. Women who were afraid of childbirth and also had a history of depression were five times more likely to develop PPD.

For the study, researchers from Finland looked at health records from 511,422 single-child births that occurred between 2002 and 2010. Of these, 1,438, or 0.3 percent resulted in PPD for the mother. Researchers found that two-thirds of the women who had a history of depression also suffered from PPD. For the remaining third of women who developed PPD, researchers found that the single greatest factor linking them together was that the mother reported feeling afraid of childbirth during her pregnancy.

Researchers are already well aware that a woman who has a history of depression prior to pregnancy is more likely to suffer from PPD after childbirth. But this new research gives health care providers new insight into another subset of women who may be at risk for the condition. And hopefully it will help them identify women who need help before it becomes a serious problem.

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Women who fear childbirth more likely to suffer from postpartum depression
New research may help health care providers identify women who are likely to develop postpartum depression before it becomes a problem.