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Sunday 24 March 2019

New mums without 'proper' care at risk from depression

Caroline Crawford

IRISH mothers are at greater risk of developing postnatal depression (PND) when they feel they do not receive proper midwife and public nursing care in the days and weeks following birth.

A study of first-time mothers in Ireland found that the risks of developing PND reach 13.2pc by six weeks after birth before falling back to 9.8pc by 12 weeks.

However, mothers who felt they had not received sufficient midwife support while in hospital were three times more likely to be at risk of PND.

That risk rose to more than six times likelier for those who felt low appraisal from public health nurses during the first three months.

Dr Patricia Leahy-Warren of University College Cork questioned 512 first-time mothers for the study, with questionnaires at birth, six weeks and 12 weeks.

She looked at the formal and informal social supports available and how that influenced Maternal Parental Self Efficacy (MPSE) – a mother's belief in her own abilities.

The research found that the higher the MPSE, the lower the risk of postnatal depression.

She found the importance of midwife supports in hospital and of public health nurses for the first three months was immense.

Mothers who perceived they had received no formal supports at birth had significantly elevated risk of developing PND and were 3.3 times more at risk.


This figure rose dramatically for new mothers who did not feel they had received sufficient appraisal support by public health nurses in the first 12 weeks. Their risk of developing postnatal depression rose by 6.42 times.

Dr Leahy-Warren, who presented her findings at the International Public Health Nursing Conference at NUI Galway, also looked at some of the isolating factors that contribute to an increased risk of postnatal depression, including an increase in the number of caesarean sections and shorter stays in hospital following the birth.

"It all plays a part," she said. "Our numbers of caesarean sections are very high. This is major surgery, so it is another thing for mothers to contend with as well as learning the skills of trying to mind a baby which you have never done before. So it's an added risk to becoming more housebound and isolated.

"The midwives in hospitals are offering supports, but there are reduced numbers in the hospitals, they are not being replaced and the amount of time mothers spend in hospital is so much reduced. There were first-time mothers discharged at two days."

Dr Leahy-Warren said research in perinatal health was very poor.

"We need to be more cognisant of postnatal depression. We are not measuring postnatal depression, we are just screening for it," she said.

Irish Independent

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