Maternity care may play a role in determining a mother’s overall level of satisfaction during birth and months after labor. A mother’s decision on the mode of baby delivery and whether they opt for pain relief during labor will affect her overall happiness. A recent study finds a vaginal birth without epidural anesthesia increases the odds of happiness for new moms.

A woman’s labor and delivery experience can be very painful, which is why pain relief is usually administered to a laboring woman upon request. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states “there are no other circumstances in which it is considered acceptable for an individual to experience untreated severe pain, amendable for an individual to safe intervention, while under a physician’s care.” Among the pharmaceutical methods, epidural anesthesia remains as the most popular method of pain relief during labor with more than 50 percent of women receiving the local anesthetic.

While Caesarean deliveries are increasing, making up 33 percent of total births nationwide, vaginal deliveries are still the most common birth method in the U.S. The use of epidural analgesia has been associated with a lower rate of spontaneous vaginal delivery, a higher rate of instrumental vaginal delivery, and longer labors. However, women who receive an epidural are more likely to have intrapartum fever and their infants are more likely to be evaluated and treated for suspected sepsis. ACOG researchers believe there is insufficient evidence to determine whether an epidural does or does not tend to increase the risk of Caesarean delivery or fetal malposition. Now, a team of Spanish researchers believe a vaginal birth with no epidural analgesia could increase the odds of happiness for women and prevent the onset of postpartum depression.

Publishing in the journal Nutrición Hospitalaria, researchers from Granada, Spain, sought to identify the woman’s satisfaction degree about birth attention, accompaniment during nativity, and the breastfeeding’s term in a group of pregnant mothers. Sixty expectant mothers were selected from a sample of 2,800 women who gave birth at the San Cecilio University Hospital between August 2011 and August 2012. The majority of the women in the study were older than 30, the researchers noted.

The participant’s level of satisfaction was first monitored 24 hours after birth, and then 14 days later by phone while taking into account the mother’s feeding habits for her infant. Three months later, the mothers were contacted via phone to talk about the type of nutrition the baby was receiving to measure if satisfaction levels were affected by a change in feeding methods for the newborn.

The findings revealed C-sections were more popular among this group of women in the study with nearly 42 percent choosing this birth method. Thirty-two percent of the participants opted for a vaginal birth with epidural anesthesia while 27 percent choose a vaginal birth without epidural. The researchers also found half of the participants in the study were satisfied with their chosen method of delivery. However, in regards to overall level of satisfaction, or happiness, women who had a natural birth without a local anesthetic were found to be the happiest compared to their counterparts.

The type of nutrition the mothers provided their newborns also determined their overall level of satisfaction. More than half of the participants breast-fed their infants the first 24 hours of pregnancy and 14 days after labor. However, breastfeeding rates dropped to 37 percent after three months of postpartum. Those who continued to breastfeed their child after three months were found to be happier than the other participants.

"The mother being happy or not during birth is related to the duration of breast-feeding,” said Maria Jose Aguilar Cordero, principal author of the study and professor of nursing at the University of Granada, Medical Xpress reports. “There is a greater percentage of mothers who are still breast-feeding after three months if they have been happy with the birth, compared to other mothers who were less satisfied with their delivery".

The investigation of identifying what influences a mother’s level of satisfaction during birth can help doctors and close ones increase the level of assistance they receive in the delivery room and after birth. A satisfaction in delivery and breast-feeding lessens the likelihood of women suffering from postpartum depression, according to the press release.

The notion of breast-feeding possibly preventing postpartum depression has been supported by in a review of more than 9,000 study abstracts done by the National Institutes of Health. Overall, women who didn’t breast-feed or who stopped breast-feeding early on were at a higher risk of developing depression after birth. During breast-feeding, the hormone oxytocin — the feel-good bonding hormone — is released and promotes warm social feelings among people, which leads to lower rates of depression in these moms.

In the U.S., an estimated nine to 16 percent of women will experience postpartum depression, according to the American Psychological Association. The mental health condition is usually characterized by a prolonged period of emotional disturbance during a time of major life change and increased responsibilities in the care of a newborn. Women who have already experienced postpartum depression have a 41 percent increased risk of reoccurring in future pregnancies.

To learn more about ways to prevent postpartum depression, click here.


Aguilar Cordero MJ, Exposito Ruiz M, Gonzalez Mendoza JL et al. Valoración del nivel de satisfacción en un grupo de mujeres de Granada sobre atención al parto, acompañamiento y duración de la lactancia. Nutrición Hospitalaria. 2013.