A recent statistic has shown that postpartum depression affects almost 20 percent (20%) of new mothers.
The American Psychological Association describes the condition as a serious mental health issue characterized by long periods of emotional disturbance. It typically occurs when a person is experiencing a major change in their life, as well as an increasing number of responsibilities when there’s a newborn infant in the family.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a dangerous condition as it not only endangers the health of the mother, but also that of the baby as the infant will most likely develop poor cognitive skills, social skills and behavioral skills.
Researchers have known for a very long time that oxytocin, a hormone which has a positive role to play in healthy child births, maternal bonding, mother – child relationship, stress level management, mood regulation and emotional regulation, can also be linked to postpartum depression if a mother happens to have a lower level of oxytocin.
An international team of researchers led by the University of Virginia set out to investigate the matter and found that there’s a blood marker than can inform experts whether or not a woman may be at risk of experiencing postpartum depression.
For their study, the team looked at data gathered by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which was carried out by co-author Jean Golding in the United Kingdom. Jean is a field expert from the University of Bristol.
Jessica Connelly, senior study author and assistant professor of psychology over at the University of Virginia, gave a statement saying that “We can greatly improve the outcome of this disorder with the identification of markers, biological or otherwise, that can identify women who may be at risk for its development”.
She went on to add that medical professionals know that women who experienced depression before getting pregnant have much more of a chance of developing depression during the postpartum period.
On the polar opposite of the equation, women who never experienced depression in their life also often develop postpartum depression, so the researchers knew that the issue is more widespread than that.
Professor Connelly informed that the blood markers that her and her team have managed to identify can spot women who are at risk of experiencing postpartum depression in both groups of patients.
C. Sue Carter, study co-author and director at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, gave a statement of her own saying that the role the oxytocin system plays in maternal behavior has been well documented by many previous studies conducted on rodents.
What the new study does is prove its importance in the maternal condition experienced by humans as the “epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor” is placed at the forefront of the process.
The next step for Professor Connelly and her colleagues is to replicate the results in other population samples.
The study was published earlier this month, in the medical journal Frontiers in Genetics.
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