Postnatal depression more likely with birth of boys

By Julie Griffiths on 08 November 2018 Postnatal Depression

The odds of women developing postnatal depression (PND) increase by up to 79% when they give birth to boys compared to girls, a research study has found.

It also found that women whose births had complications were 174% more likely to experience PND compared to those who had no complications.

The researchers said that the results conclude that recognising these factors as PND risks should help health professionals in identifying and supporting women who may be more susceptible to the condition.

The study aimed to assess whether there was a relationship between the sex of infants and PND because of the known link between inflammatory immune response and the development of depressive symptoms.

The researchers said that while both the gestation of male fetuses and the experience of birth complications have documented associations with increased inflammation, their relationships with PND were unclear until this study.

Many known risk factors for depressive symptoms are associated with activation of inflammatory pathways, opening up the potential for identifying new risk factors based on their inflammation causing effects – an idea supported by this study.

The reproductive histories of 296 women from contemporary, low fertility populations were used in the study, which was published in Social Science & Medicine.

RCM global advisor Joy Kemp said: ‘This is interesting research and any information that contributes to our knowledge about PND is useful, but what is important is that maternity services are able to offer women the support they need throughout and after their pregnancy.’ 

She added that improving continuity of carer will support this: ‘With this way of caring for women midwives will know the woman better and be better able to spot problems such as PND developing, and then take action to support the woman and organise the care they need.’
Joy said there is also a need to invest in specialist mental health midwives and maternal mental health services. 

‘Every Trust and board with maternity services should have a specialist midwife in post to enable women who are unwell to get the very best care and support they need. Currently only around half of NHS trusts in England provide a specialist maternal mental health service to women and this is simply not good enough,’ she added.

The research paper, released by the University of Kent can be read here.