Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More than just baby blues: How postpartum depression arises and how it could be prevented

Date:
June 20, 2010
Source:
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Summary:
Within the first week after giving birth, up to 70 percent of all women experience symptoms of the baby blues. While most women recover quickly, up to 13 percent of all new mothers suffer from symptoms of a clinical-level postpartum depression.

Monoamine model of postpartum blues. A: After delivery, estrogen levels drop 100- to 1000fold; the estrogen decline is greatest during the first 3 to 4 days postpartum, with a modest decline thereafter. B: Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) levels are significantly greater in the early postpartum period, with a peak on day 5 postpartum. C: In the early postpartum period, up to 70% of mothers experience sadness, mood lability, anxiety, insomnia, poor appetite, and irritability, with mood being lowest on day 5 postpartum.
Credit: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences

Within the first week after giving birth, up to 70 percent of all women experience symptoms of the baby blues. While most women recover quickly, up to 13 percent of all new mothers suffer from symptoms of a clinical-level postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is defined as a major depressive episode starting within 4 weeks after delivery and is a significant public health problem. Postpartum blues represents a major risk factor for developing postpartum depression and severe postpartum blues symptoms can be viewed as a prodromal stage for postpartum depression.

Julia Sacher from the MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and her colleague Jeffrey H. Meyer from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, could now reveal an increase of the enzyme MAO-A throughout the female brain in the immediate postpartum period and propose a novel, neurobiological model for postpartum blues

The research appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry (May 26, 2010).

For most women, the birth of their baby is one of the most strenuous but also happiest days in their lives. So it is very difficult to understand why almost three-quarters of all women feel down shortly after giving birth. They can suffer from extreme sadness, mood swings, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and irritability. For a long time, the reasons for this have been unclear. What has been known is that in the first three to four days after giving birth, estrogen levels drop 100 to 1000 fold.

In the current study researchers have discovered that proportional to this estrogen-loss, levels of the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) increase dramatically throughout the female brain. The enzyme can be found in higher concentrations in glial cells and monoamine-releasing neurons, where it breaks down the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. As well as being responsible for transmitting signals between nerve cells, these neurotransmitters also influence our mood. If they are deficient, we initially feel sad, and later have a high risk of becoming depressed.

Using positron emission tomography (PET) -- an imaging method that creates images of the distribution of a short-lived radioactive substance in an organism -- the researchers measured the distribution of a radioactively- marked ligand in the brain which binds specifically and with a high affinity to the enzyme monoamine oxidase A. They found that levels of MAO-A were, on average, 43 percent higher in women who had just had a baby than in a control group consisting of women who either had children a long time ago or had no children. The MAO-A increase could be shown in all brain regions investigated, with MAO-A levels being highest on day five postpartum. This result fits neatly with the fact that the mood of mothers often hits a low precisely on this day.

Severe baby blues symptoms can be viewed as a prodromal stage for postpartum depression. From this perspective, preventing depressive symptoms in the immediate postpartum period may have powerful impact for prophylaxis of postpartum depression. Attempts can be made to either lower elevated levels of MAO-A with selected antagonist drugs, or to increase the concentration of monoamine neurotransmitters that can elevate mood. Both have the goal of keeping levels of monoamine neurotransmitters in the brain balanced after birth. Given the need to develop treatments that are compatible with breastfeeding, the intake of dietary supplements of monoamine precursors in the early postpartum period would be a promising strategy to maintain a sufficient balance of monoamines during this time. This includes the administration of precursor supplements such as the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine, which the body can convert into the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, respectively.

"Our results have the exciting potential for prevention for severe postpartum blues. This could have an impact on prevention and treatment of postpartum depression in the future," says Julia Sacher, first author of the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Sacher, A. A. Wilson, S. Houle, P. Rusjan, S. Hassan, P. M. Bloomfield, D. E. Stewart, J. H. Meyer. Elevated Brain Monoamine Oxidase A Binding in the Early Postpartum Period. Archives of General Psychiatry, 2010; 67 (5): 468 DOI: 10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2010.32

Cite This Page:

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "More than just baby blues: How postpartum depression arises and how it could be prevented." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100616102854.htm>.
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2010, June 20). More than just baby blues: How postpartum depression arises and how it could be prevented. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100616102854.htm
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. "More than just baby blues: How postpartum depression arises and how it could be prevented." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100616102854.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins