Nursing Difficulties Linked With Higher Rates of Postpartum Depression, Study Says
By Jacqueline Tourville
Let’s face it, having trouble breastfeeding can be a downer. But is it also a red flag that you are at risk for postpartum depression? Yes, say researchers from the University of North Carolina whose recent study of over 2,500 new moms found that women who admit they don’t like to breastfeed–or who experience breastfeeding difficulties during the first few weeks after birth–have much higher rates of postpartum depression than moms for whom breastfeeding comes easy.
“If [nursing moms] are struggling with breastfeeding, they should seek help and tell their provider. If they don’t have joy in their life, if they wake up in the morning and think, ‘I just can’t do this another day’ – that’s a medical emergency.
“We found that women who said they disliked breastfeeding were 42 percent more likely to experience postpartum depression at two months compared to women who liked breastfeeding. We also found that women with severe breast pain at day one and also at two weeks postpartum were twice as likely to be depressed compared to women that did not experience pain with nursing,” says Stephanie Watkins, MSPH, MSPT, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
Nobody said breastfeeding is easy, but what’s the connection with postpartum depression? It could be that PPD is somehow linked to a mom’s feelings of failure over breastfeeding difficulties–or feelings of guilt over not wanting to breastfeed–though more research is needed to pinpoint the exact relationship. In the meantime, researchers say their study does provide breastfeeding moms with important information they can use right now.
“If [nursing moms] are struggling with breastfeeding, they should seek help and tell their provider,” study authors write. “If they don’t have joy in their life, if they wake up in the morning and think, ‘I just can’t do this another day’ – that’s a medical emergency. They shouldn’t just say, ‘I’m going to power through this and snap out of it.’ They should call their provider and say, ‘I just don’t feel right.’ ”
We agree, mama! If what you’re feeling is more than just a case of the normal baby blues, and especially if depression is accompanied by struggles with breastfeeding, talk to your doctor or midwife. Not only can your provider screen for PPD and provide treatment for depression, he or she can put you in touch with lactation consultant for help overcoming breastfeeding obstacles.