A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found that mothers who struggle to breast-feed in the first two weeks after giving birth are more prone to postpartum depression.
The study, which was published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, looked at data from 2,586 women in the government-funded Infant Feeding and Practices Study II, which assessed issues of feeding and depression. Nine percent of the women fell into the category of “major depression.”
The scientists are clear on if problems breast feeding leads to depression or vice versa but they do see a correlation to the two occurring together.
“Clearly all women who have pain breast-feeding are not depressed, but the message for clinicians is to look not just at baby’s mouth and the boob but to also look at mom’s brain,” says Dr. Alison Stuebe, the study’s senior author and an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology in the UNC School of Medicine. “The mind has to be part of the evaluation.”…
“Women who reported dissatisfaction with breast-feeding early on were 42% more likely to have postpartum depression two months after delivery compared with women who enjoyed breast-feeding. Mothers who initially experienced severe breast pain initially and at two weeks postpartum were twice as likely to be depressed as pain-free women. Depression, in general, has been linked to increased pain sensitivity, which may explain why depressed women have more pain while breast-feeding.”
“The association is unlikely to be coincidental. In a pilot study Stuebe is conducting, she’s found that new moms who report feeling anxious have lower levels of oxytocin — the feel-good hormone that courses through the body while nursing — during feeding. ‘Is there something hormonal in women who are depressed that makes breast-feeding less enjoyable?” she says.’ ”
So what do you do for these women? Stuebe says she is happy with all the support the government is now giving to encourage women to nurse and to nurse longer and you don’t want to backpedal from that. However she thinks health providers should be having conversation with mothers about their particular case.
“ ‘And if, for this mother, and this baby, extracting milk and delivering it to her infant have overshadowed all other aspects of their relationship, it may be that exclusive breast-feeding is not best for them – in fact, it may not even be good for them’ .”
“Says Stuebe: ‘A lot of the pain that women experience with breast-feeding reflects the now-outdated concept that moms have to power through, no matter what. It is helpful to have a more honest, realistic expectation of motherhood as a whole.’ ”
Holy cow this all sounds so familiar! I had a very painful time breast-feeding my first child and went into a depression with her that I never experienced with either of my other two. I injured my nipple at the hospital nursing the first time. I left the baby on too long one side (Who knew? It was the first time I had ever done it!) And from that point on it hurt terribly to nurse on that side. Along with that I developed yeast on my breasts which no one diagnosed for three months despite going to the gynecologist, who just told me to stop nursing.
It was sheer torture to nurse Rose 12 times a day and I dreaded it. I was crying all the time.
The day we finally figured out it was yeast and got medicine on my breast was the greatest day ever. I felt so much better.
I absolutely can see how these depression and nursing trouble go hand-in-hand.
Did you have trouble nursing and postpartum depression? Did you see a correlation? How did you handle?