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Difficulty Breastfeeding Linked To Post-Partum Depression

Problems breastfeeding can leave new moms feeling dejected and overwhelmed in their first days of motherhood. Sometimes, these blue feelings become full blown post-partum depression.

A new study finds that women who have trouble with breastfeeding are more likely to suffer from post-partum depression. While they’ve found a definite link between the two issues, they don’t know which way the causal relationship flows.

Are women becoming depressed because they’re struggling with breastfeeding, or are they having trouble nursing because they’re depressed?

More research is needed to answer that question, but just knowing there’s a link gives healthcare providers valuable information to work with.

As the researchers told TIME, the link gives healthcare providers two ways to reach out to new moms and support their breastfeeding efforts:

The study was not able to determine whether depressed moms were more likely to have trouble breast-feeding or whether difficulty breast-feeding sparked depression, but the paper’s authors, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), recommend a two-pronged holistic approach: screen women with breast-feeding difficulties for depression and assess how breast-feeding is going for depressed mothers.

Their best guess is that pre-existing depression contributes to nursing problems by lowering a mom’s pain tolerance. A new study the group is working on shows that new moms who feel anxious also have lower levels of oxytocin. Causal factors the other way are not hard to guess at: there’s tremendous pressure on new mom’s to breastfeed, and many of us have a huge emotional investment in doing it. If you’re struggling to feed your new baby, that has to spur some hard feelings.

Did you experience either post-partum depression or trouble breastfeeding?  What do you think of the link between the two?

Photo: dlisbona

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