View all news

No Link Between Caesarean Birth And Postnatal Depression

15 April 2005

Pregnant women whose babies are born by Caesarean section are no more likely to suffer postnatal depression than mothers who give birth normally.

Pregnant women whose babies are born by Caesarean section are no more likely to suffer postnatal depression than mothers who give birth normally.

A new study of 11 thousand mothers has come to the conclusion that whatever the mode of childbirth – whether vaginal, assisted or Caesarean – it has no association with the onset of depression afterwards..

The findings from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study challenge the theory that women who are at greatest risk of suffering postnatal depression should be treated differently by maternity hospitals.

Dr Roshni Patel from St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol who drew up the report says: “Some previous research has suggested that if labour is complicated and the delivery unexpectedly performed as an emergency procedure it could potentially be stressful to the mother.

“In such scenarios there may be an association between emergency operative delivery and postnatal depression.”

Of all 11,000 mothers, almost 80 per cent (8,731) had a normal vaginal delivery, 11.4 per cent (1,242) had an assisted delivery using forceps or vacuum extraction, 3.6 per cent (389) had an elective Caesarean and 5.2 (572) per cent had an emergency Caesarean.

Overall, Dr Patel found that, in line with previous research, 10 per cent of the Children of the 90s mothers appeared to be suffering from depression eight weeks after giving birth. After taking various other factors into account – there seemed to be no difference according to the method of birth.

Among women who planned to have their babies by caesarean section – there was no more evidence of depression when compared with women who planned normal delivery.

Among women who had planned normal deliveries, but then had to have a Caesarean. there was still no difference in rates of depression.

Dr Patel says: “There is no reason why women with a history of depression or those at high risk of depression should be advised or treated differently with regard to mode of delivery.

“Even if emergency caesarean section is required, women can be reassured that there is no reason to believe that they are more likely to experience postnatal depression.”


Academic paper reference

Operative delivery and postnatal depression: a cohort study. Roshni R Patel, Deirdre J Murphy, Tim J Peters for ALSPAC. The British Medical Journal. April 16, 2005. doi: 10.1136/bmj.38376.603426.D3


  • Postnatal depression is similar to depression occurring at other times in life and only distinguishable by the timing of onset. What makes postnatal depression of particular concern is its possible detrimental long term effects on subsequent child development. Infants of depressed mothers have been found to perform less well on object concept tasks and be more insecurely attached to their mothers. Other studies have found higher rates of intellectual deficits at 4 years of age, behavioural disturbances up to 5 years, and increased rates of special educational needs at 11 years.
  • ALSPAC The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (also known as Children of the 90s) is a unique ongoing research project based in the University of Bristol. It enrolled 14,000 mothers during pregnancy in 1991-2 and has followed most of the children and parents in minute detail ever since.
  • The ALSPAC study could not have been undertaken without the continuing financial support of the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, and the University of Bristol among many others.


This press release in PDF format (PDF, 84kB)

Edit this page