When Jane wasn’t working one of her two jobs, she was daydreaming about the birth of her baby. He (Jane just knew it was a boy) was only the size of an avocado, but she already loved him so much—his tiny hands and feet, his sure-to-be cute giggles, even his deafening cries. She was ready to welcome her little bean into the world—the next 6 months couldn’t pass soon enough. Until they did.

And her child was no longer sitting safe and quiet in her belly, but sleeping, playing, eating, and crying—in his crib, in his car seat, in his playpen. It was everything she’d been waiting for but it all blurred together; she wasn’t beaming of happiness or naturally rocking at this whole mom-thing. Instead, she felt sad, hopeless, and absolutely worthless.

Jane has postpartum depression (PPD): an illness that occurs after childbirth, whereas individuals have a difficult time caring for or bonding with their baby. This illness oftentimes leaves one feeling sad or hopeless and uninterested in day-to-day activities; it is a scary disorder and understandably feared by many women, especially by those who have certain risk factors for the disease. These include a family history of postpartum depression, high life stress, and a lack of support from loved ones. But there’s actually an unexpected factor that can have the opposite effect and possibly lower one’s risk of developing postpartum depression—the season. A study suggests that women who give birth in the winter or spring seasons are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression. These findings will be presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY 2017 annual meeting.

According to Postpartum Progress, around 10 to 15% of women suffer from postpartum mood disorders—these include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety/OCD, and postpartum psychosis. Considering this statistic, the research team sought to better understand the risk factors that may accompany these harmful illnesses, which led to their surprising discovery: “We wanted to find out whether there are certain factors influencing the risk of developing postpartum depression that may be avoided to improve women’s health both physically and mentally,” explains lead author of the study Jie Zhou, M.D., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In addition to finding that the season of childbirth may affect whether a woman develops postpartum depression or not, the researchers also made a few other interesting findings: one, women who delivered babies further along in their pregnancy were less likely to develop PPD; two, those who didn’t have anesthesia (e.g., an epidural) during childbirth were at an increased risk for PPD; and three, a higher body mass index (BMI) was linked to an increased risk of PPD.

To makes these discoveries, the team analyzed the medical records of 20,169 women who had babies between June 2015 and August of 2017. Of these 20,000, a total of 817 new moms experienced postpartum depression; and while the study did not specifically examine why a given factor might influence the presence of PPD, Dr. Zhou says, “it is expected that the mother will do better and be less mentally stressed when delivering a mature, healthy baby.” The researchers also suggest that the lesser risk of PPD in women who deliver babies in winter and spring could be due in part to a mother’s enjoyment of bonding through indoor activities, which are more convenient.

After a few weeks of experiencing her PPD, Jane started going to counseling, which provided her with emotional support, and began taking antidepressant medicine for relief from the harmful symptoms of her illness. Thankfully, after a few months, she no longer felt depressed and could finally enjoy motherhood. However, not everyone is so lucky—it’s possible to suffer with PPD for up to 3 years after giving birth, which is why it’s so important to determine and understand risk factors for the disease that may be avoided.

Source: ASA “Postpartum Depression Less Likely For Moms Who Give Birth in Winter or Spring.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 22 October 2017.