Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA
Does Breastfeeding Protect Maternal Mental Health? The Role of Oxytocin and Stress
Depression research contains many conclusions that appear to contradict each other. For example, breastfeeding lowers the risk of depression, but depression increases the risk that breastfeeding will fail. Moreover, breastfeeding problems increase women's risk of depression. These findings are not as contradictory as they may seem. By understanding the underlying physiological mechanism, we can understand these seemingly paradoxical findings. This presentation will describe the link between the stress and oxytocin systems, and how they relate to both maternal mental health and breastfeeding. When the stress system is upregulated, depression and breastfeeding difficulties follow. Conversely, when oxytocin is upregulated, maternal mental health and breastfeeding rates improve. This talk also includes the role of birth interventions and mother-infant sleep, as well as practical strategies that increase oxytocin.
The Impact of Violence on Breastfeeding and Maternal Mental Health
Can violence influence a woman’s current mothering experience and her health and well-being? Yes, they can, but they don’t have to be the blueprint for the rest of her life. This session provides an overview of the latest research on the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences and intimate partner violence; their impact on breastfeeding and maternal mental health; how they can affect a woman’s body, mind and spirit; and what she can do to cope. This session also provides an overview of Trauma-Informed Care and how it applies to perinatal women.
What’s New in Postpartum Depression Research: A 2018 Review
A 2018 review of the literature on postpartum/postnatal depression revealed some emerging trends in this ever-changing field. For example, postpartum depression organizations often state that it affects 10% of new mothers. Recent studies have found much higher rates, often as high as 30% to 40%. Women at highest risk—mothers who are young, ethnic minority, and who have experienced adversity and violence—are often not included in the “10%” statistic, which seriously underestimates the problem. Other groups at high risk are immigrants, mothers who have survived natural disasters or who are abused by their intimate partners. Depression research is particularly relevant for breastfeeding advocates in that it is a major cause of breastfeeding cessation. Yet exclusive breastfeeding protects maternal mental health. Depression during pregnancy is also concerning because it increases the risk of preterm birth—the number one cause of infant mortality worldwide. Finally, many common birth interventions, such as epidurals, increase this risk for both depression and breastfeeding problems.