Accidental Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression

postpartum depressionA new study shows that women who accidentally get pregnant are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression than women who plan their pregnancies.

This makes sense – that accidental pregnancies may lead to depression after having the baby. It’s really good information to have, because it’ll help women who accidentally got pregnant cope with their feelings after the birth.

The Research on Accidental Pregnancies and Postpartum Depression

Women with accidental pregnancy are four times more likely to suffer from postpartum depression at twelve months postpartum, suggests a new study in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The study, conducted at the University of North Carolina prenatal clinics, questioned participants about pregnancy intention at 15-19 weeks gestational age. Women were classified as having an intended, mistimed or accidental unwanted pregnancy. There were 433 women (64%) with an intended pregnancy, 207 (30%) with a mistimed pregnancy and 40 (6%) with an unwanted pregnancy. Accidental pregnancy was defined as both mistimed and unwanted accidental pregnancies. Data were analysed for 688 women at three months and 550 women at twelve months.

Results show that postpartum depression was more likely in women with accidental pregnancies at both three months (11% vs. 5%) and twelve months (12% vs. 3%). The increased risk was highest at 12 months and indicates that this group of women have a long term risk of depression. When age, education level and poverty status were factored into the results, women with unintended pregnancy were still twice as likely to have postpartum depression at twelve months.

The authors conclude that accidental pregnancy may have a long term effect on maternal wellbeing. Clinicians and health care practitioners could consider pregnancy intention at antenatal visits, and offer appropriate support both during and following the accidental pregnancy.

Dr Rebecca Mercier, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of North Carolina and co-author of the research said: “While many elements may contribute to postpartum depression, the results of this study show that accidental pregnancy resulting in live birth could also be a contributing factor.”

If you’re pregnant, read 10 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy From a Certified Nurse Midwife.

Accidental pregnancy carried to term may have a long term effect on women. Healthcare professionals should therefore consider asking about pregnancy at early antepartum visits to screen for unintended pregnancy as women who report that their pregnancy was unintended or unwanted may benefit from earlier or more targeted screening both during and following pregnancy.

Simple, low-cost screening interventions to identify women at risk could allow targeted intervention when appropriate, and could potentially prevent complications from future accidental pregnancies.

“Unintended pregnancy has been linked to poor prenatal care, high risk pregnancy behaviours, increased rates of preterm birth and low birth rate, poor social outcomes in childhood and increased medical costs,” said Mike Marsh, BJOG Deputy Editor-in-chief. “However, the relationship between unintended pregnancy and poor neonatal outcomes has been studied extensively, but less is known about the effect of unintended pregnancy carried to term on the woman herself. The findings of this study focus on the effects of unintended pregnancy on the mother and we can see a relationship between accidental pregnancy and postpartum depression.”

It makes me sad that there are so many women who want to get pregnant so bad, and other women get pregnant by accident. If you’re trying to get pregnant, read How to Get Pregnant – 5 Most Important Tips From the NIH.

I welcome your thoughts on accidental pregnancies and postpartum depression below.

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