The ‘cats vs dogs’ debate is as old as pets themselves – but science may have settled the bill for mums-to-be choosing a fur baby.
A new study has found that keeping a cat during pregnancy increases a mother’s risk of postpartum depression.
However, dogs have been found to reduce this risk as well as other mental health problems such as postpartum anxiety and psychological distress.
Owners of pregnant cats are also at risk of toxoplasmosis, a parasite that causes an infection that can lead to miscarriage, fetal abnormalities or brain damage.
Lead author Kenta Matsumura said: “We found that the type of pet has an impact on maternal mental health during the perinatal and postpartum periods.
“Our research suggests that special attention should be paid to cat owners, who have an increased risk of mental health and toxoplasmosis.”
Findings from a Toyama University study found that cat ownership was associated with an increased risk of developing depressive symptoms in the 6 months following childbirth (pictured)
According to research, one in four mothers experience mental health problems before giving birth
Awareness of postpartum depression is growing, but few people know that problems can start before the baby is born.
Researchers at King’s College London found that 27 percent of pregnant women had mental health problems.
Using psychological nutrition screening at obstetric admissions, they found that 11 percent of women had depression, 15 percent had anxiety, 2 percent had panic disorder, and 2 percent had obsessive-compulsive disorder, with many women having a variety of problems.
These are often overlooked because women mistakenly believe that they feel better after pregnancy.
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Previous studies have examined the relationship between pet ownership and mental health in various demographics.
However, it is not multi-purpose Women who are close to childbirth, they have an increased vulnerability to mental health disorders.
Matsumura’s team created a questionnaire to study how pet ownership affects the mental health of pregnant women.
Information was collected on topics such as demographic and socioeconomic status, medical and obstetric history, physical and mental health, and lifestyle.
The questionnaire was administered to 80,814 mothers living in urban and rural areas of Japan who kept a dog or cat during pregnancy.
Each of them received five times – in the first trimester, in the second or third trimester and one month, six months and one year after delivery.
Findings published this month in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that owning a dog during pregnancy reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety at one month and six months postpartum.
New mothers with dogs also showed signs of decreased psychological well-being in the 12 months after giving birth.
In contrast, cat ownership was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms during the six months following delivery.
Symptoms of psychological stress during the second or third trimester of pregnancy have also been observed for pregnant cat owners and pregnant dog owners.
But this was largely similar to the reference group of mothers without pets.
Owning a dog during pregnancy was associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety at 1 month and 6 months postpartum. New mothers with dogs also showed less psychological distress in the 12 months after giving birth (pictured)
WHAT IS TOXOPLASMA GONDII?
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a protozoan parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.
It infects warm-blooded animal species, including humans. Routes of transmission include cat feces, contaminated food or water, or sexual contact with an infected person.
It can be stored in the body of humans (and other animals) for a long time, possibly for life.
And among those who are infected, there are very few symptoms because a healthy person’s immune system usually prevents the parasite from causing disease.
However, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should be careful; For them, Toxoplasma infection can cause serious health problems.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The authors of the study concluded that the type of pet owned during pregnancy plays a large role in the mental health of mothers before and after childbirth.
They also believe that dogs’ long history of domestication can have a positive effect on their mood.
“Dogs and humans may have evolved to benefit both species, including human mental health,” they wrote.
“The exact mechanism behind the second finding of an increased risk of mental health problems with cat ownership is unclear.
“Some researchers have shown that human-cat intimacy is similar to that of humans and dogs, while others have shown that cat owners have lower self-esteem than dog owners.
“Unlike dogs, cats have shorter lives with humans.
“Thus, the level of co-evolution is not mature enough to produce large-scale benefits in humans.”
The study did not take into account the number of pets pregnant women owned, the burden of caring for them, and whether they wanted pets or not.
Because not all variables could be controlled for, the authors say they cannot provide a definitive reason for their results.
They concluded that ‘relationships’ do not necessarily mean that owning a dog prevents mothers from experiencing postpartum depression or psychological distress.
“For example, we cannot rule out that mothers-to-be with mental health problems may have cats rather than dogs.”