MCH Blog Post #2 (7.1.2021)

The Impacts of Midwife Maternity Care on Postpartum Depression

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Maternal postpartum depression (PPD) is one of the most common complications associated with pregnancy. In fact, it affects one in seven women, or approximately 15% of mothers yearly. Depressive symptoms typically begin within two to four weeks after birth and resolve within a year, but can last up to four years if untreated. While PPD has been linked to a history of psychopathology, depression or anxiety during pregnancy, poor social support, and stressful life events, such as a traumatic birth experience, there has been less exploration of whether having a midwife or not helps to decrease the severity and longevity of PPD. Provider type has shown to heavily influence birth experience; if women perceived supportive caregiving from their provider through empathic, respectful, shared decision-making control, and nurturing care, women’s experience of childbirth were positive, thereby reducing symptomology of PPD. As such, it is important to consider the relationship between using a midwife and decreasing the likelihood of developing PPD. 

As a result of recently established hospital policies that separate newborns from mothers with confirmed COVID-19, partners and support persons such as doulas are barred from attending deliveries due to fear of viral exposure. This isolation and absence of a ‘birth advocate’ can lead to birth trauma. There has been an increase in women preferring “community” care and birth, defined as birth experiences and maternity care centered within a community and outside of a hospital. There has also been growing evidence that midwives provide safety and psychological benefits for low risk pregnancies such as identifying and treating emotional difficulties, and the pandemic has only accelerated the increase in the usage of midwife services. 

Despite the known benefits of community care, midwife maternity care is far less prevalent in the U.S. than in other affluent countries, attending about 10% of births. It is necessary to integrate midwives into the healthcare system to provide better access to preferred care models and decrease maternal and infant health complications, such as PPD.