Thursday, May 24, 2012

Research Reveals Genetic Links to Postpartum Depression

Any woman who has given birth knows the emotional upheaval that often follows this life-changing experience. For some women, however, this emotional roller coaster isn't a brief experience, but one that develops into postpartum depression. Researchers estimate that somewhere between 10 and 20% of women experience postpartum depression in the first six months after the birth of their child. When you think about it, this is a very significant number of women. In addition to the suffering of these women, depression can also be very detrimental to the formation of attachment between mother and infant. This can set up an unfortunate, and even, unhealthy, dynamic between parent and child that can take years to repair.

This is why I was so interested to read about a new line of research showing the possibility of a blood test that could indicate which women might be at-risk for developing postpartum depression. Researchers at the University of Warwick have been able to identify certain gene variations that seem to put women at risk for developing postpartum depression. This gene variation affects the functioning of aspects of the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that is partially responsible for the release of hormones into the body. Women with this particular gene variation are more susceptible to the environmental stresssors (i.e., childbirth and its related stresses) which often prompt the development of postpartum depression. Much more research is needed to clarify how these processes work, but the researchers are hopeful that they might be able to develop a blood test to determine which women are at-risk for postpartum depression.

If such a blood test were developed, this could be extremely helpful in making sure mothers receive quick and effective treatment for postpartum depression. The sooner mothers receive treatment, the sooner their suffering can be relieved and they will be more able to establish a strong, loving attachment with their baby. Mothers and babies all over the world could benefit greatly from this. I will keep an eye on this research and share any new developments with my readers.

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