In the past few decades, the number of caesarean sections has risen markedly in Sweden. At the same time mental illness among women in fertile ages has increased, something that caught the attention of Anne-Marie Wangel, a midwife and researcher at the Faculty of Health and Society, Malmö University. Together with colleagues at Skåne University Hospital in Malmö and Lund University, she ran a study of 6.467 women in the city of Malmö.
“Our studies show that the risk of having an emergency C section increases significantly for first-time mothers if the woman has mentioned that she is worried or stressed or has trouble sleeping,” says Anne-Marie Wangel.
On the other hand, women who have received professional help or antidepressive drugs during their pregnancy do not run a greater risk of having to have an emergency caesarean.
Anne-Marie Wangel is now hoping to find methods for maternity care to systematically identify mental illness during pregnancy.
“Our study shows that women tell their midwife how they are feeling. If we had a system to identify these women and offer them special support sessions with a social worker or psychologist, we probably would be able to reduce the number of emergency C sections,” she says.
Wangel is now going to follow up the study by looking at mental illness among childbearing women in Malmö in order to see if there is some particular factor that stands out when it comes to this greater risk of emergency caesarean sections. Malmö’s women are representing Sweden in an EU study in which studies of a further five European countries are included.
Skåne University Hospital has a locally designed electronic journal system in which researchers can run free texts searches. For this study, the scientists developed a new method that made it possible to look for words and concepts that indicate mental illness.