The ‘cats versus dogs’ debate is about as old as pets themselves – but science may have settled the score for moms-to-be who also choose a fur baby.
A new study has found that owning a cat during pregnancy increases the mother’s risk of experiencing postpartum problems the Depression.
However, dogs have been found to reduce this risk, as well as other mental health issues like anxiety and psychological distress after childbirth.
Owners of pregnant cats are also at risk of contracting parasitic toxoplasmosis, which causes an infectious disease that can lead to miscarriage, infant abnormality, or brain disorder.
Lead author Kenta Matsumura said: “We found that the type of pet owned can impact a mother’s mental health, both during the perinatal and postpartum periods.
“Our results suggest that special consideration should be given to cat owners, who have a higher risk of developing mental health complications as well as toxoplasmosis.”
Findings from a Toyama University study found that owning a cat was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum (stock image)
One in four mothers-to-be have mental health issues BEFORE birth, study finds
Awareness of postnatal depression is growing, but few people know that problems can arise before the baby is born.
Researchers at King’s College London have diagnosed mental health problems in 27% of pregnant women.
Using a psychological screening technique during appointments with a midwife, they found that 11% of women suffered from depression, 15% from anxiety, 2% from eating disorders and 2% from obsessive disorders. compulsive, many women with combinations of different problems.
These are usually missed because people mistakenly believe that women always feel a “glow” of well-being when they get pregnant.
Previous studies looked at the relationship between pet ownership and the mental health of different demographic groups.
However, few targets women around childbirth, when they have an increased vulnerability to mental health disorders.
Matsumura’s team designed a questionnaire to probe how owning a pet affects the mental health of pregnant women.
Information was collected on topics such as demographic and socioeconomic status, medical and obstetrical history, physical and mental health, and lifestyle.
The questionnaire was completed by 80,814 mothers in urban and rural areas of Japan, who owned dogs or cats during their pregnancy.
They each took it five times – in the first trimester, second or third trimester and one month, six months and one year after giving birth.
The results, published this month in Social sciences and medicinefound that owning a dog during pregnancy was associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety at one month and six months postpartum.
New mothers with dogs also showed signs of reduced psychological distress at 12 months postpartum.
In contrast, owning a cat was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms at six months postpartum.
Symptoms of psychological distress in the second or third trimester of pregnancy have also been noted in pregnant cat owners and pregnant dog owners.
However, this was broadly similar to a 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 signs of reduced psychological distress at 12 months postpartum (stock image)
WHAT IS TOXOPLASMA GONDII?
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a parasitic protozoan that causes toxoplasmosis.
It infects species of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Routes of transmission include contact with contaminated cat feces, food or water, or sex with an infected person.
It can persist for long periods in the bodies of humans (and other animals), possibly even a lifetime.
However, very few of those infected show symptoms, because a healthy person’s immune system usually prevents the parasite from causing disease.
However, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems should be careful. for them, a Toxoplasma infection could cause serious health problems.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The study authors conclude that the type of pet owned during pregnancy plays a role in the mental health of mothers before and after giving birth.
They also suggest that dogs’ long domestication history may be why they have a beneficial effect on mood.
“Dogs and humans could have co-evolved to provide benefits to both species, including human mental health,” they wrote.
“The exact mechanism underlying the second finding of an increased risk of mental health problems in cat owners is unknown.
“While some researchers have shown that human-cat attachment is as high as human-dog attachment, others have shown that cat owners’ self-esteem is lower than that of dog owners.
“Unlike dogs, cats live shorter with humans.
“Thus, the degree of coevolution is not yet mature enough to produce far-reaching benefits in humans.”
The study did not take into consideration the number of pets pregnant women owned, the difficulty of caring for them and whether they would like to have pets.
Since it is impossible to control all variables, the authors claim that they are unable to provide a definitive cause for their results.
They concluded: “The observed relationships do not necessarily mean that acquiring a dog will prevent mothers from developing postpartum depression or psychological distress.
“For example, we cannot rule out the possibility that pregnant women with poor mental health tend not to have dogs but rather have cats.”