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Baby Health in Winter Women who undergo general anaesthetic with caesareans far more likely to suffer postnatal depression

Baby Health in Winter

Women who undergo general anaesthetic when having a caesarean are far more likely to go on to suffer postnatal depression, suicidal thoughts or self-harm, a study has found.

The report, conducted by Columbia University, found women who had general anaesthetic were 54 per cent more likely to suffer from postnatal depression than those who just had a local one. 

Those who underwent general anaesthetic were 91 per cent more likely to experience suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

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General anaesthetic involves being completely unconscious and oblivious to what is happening, whereas local anaesthetic just involves a small part of the body being numbed while the patient remains totally conscious. 

Researchers who examined hospital discharge records of caesareans carried out in New York State hospitals between 2006 and 2013, found 34,356, or 8 per cent, of a total 428,204 caesarean cases underwent general anaesthesia. 

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Severe postnatal depression that necessitated women being taken to hospital was recorded in 1,158 women – some 3 per cent.

In the last 15 years, postnatal depression in America has increased seven-fold and it now affects up to one in seven women, leading to around 550,000 new cases every year. 

“General anaesthesia for caesarean delivery may increase the risk of postpartum depression because it delays the initiation of mother to infant skin-to-skin interaction and breastfeeding, and often results in more acute and persistent postpartum pain,” Jean Guglielminotti, one of the report’s authors, said. 

“These situations are often coupled with a new mother’s dissatisfaction with anaesthesia in general, and can lead to negative mental health outcomes.” 

Dr Guglielminotti said there was growing evidence there can be damaging effects for mothers who undergo general anaesthetic. 

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The study, published in Anesthesia and Analgesia, is the first piece of research that looks at the impact the type of anaesthesia for caesarean delivery has on the likelihood of women suffering from postnatal depression.

Guohua Li, another report author, said: “Our findings underscore the need to avoid using general anaesthesia for caesarean delivery whenever possible, and to provide mental health screening, counselling, and other follow-up services to obstetric patients exposed to general anaesthesia.”

The NHS describes postnatal depression as a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. Symptoms can include a persistent sense of sadness, low energy, anxiety, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, and a struggle to bond with your baby.

Postnatal depression is an issue that more than one in every 10 women suffer from within a year of giving birth, according to the NHS.

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