An Incredibly Compelling Reason To Just Get The Dang Epidural

Photographed by Erin Yamgata.
Whether or not to get an epidural is one of many decisions pregnant people have to make over the course of giving birth. And while some prefer to go the whole way without drugs, there's also no denying that an epidural, which is anesthetic delivered directly into a part of your spine, does a great job at relieving labor pain. Now, new research suggests there may be another reason to opt for one: your mental health.

For the study, presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, researchers analyzed 201 records of women who had epidurals during labor. All of the women had their pain level assessed throughout labor so the researchers could calculate how much their pain improved after the epidural.

Results showed that the percent to which the epidural improved women's pain predicted their likelihood of developing postpartum depression later on. In other words, those who saw greater improvement after the epidural, meaning they experienced less pain during birth, were less likely to be diagnosed with the disorder.

"Labor pain matters more than just for the birth experience," said lead author Grace Lim, MD, in a press release. "It may be psychologically harmful for some women and play a significant role in the development of postpartum depression." So, for some women, lessening that pain with an epidural may have crucial psychological consequences.

However, this study is still preliminary, and it's not clear yet why some women would be more sensitive to labor pain than others. And postpartum depression, like all mental health issues, is too complex to be attributed to one single cause. Still, for those who are on the fence about their epidural decision, it's nice to know it could come with both physical and mental benefits.
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