Important Facts on Depression: Types, Symptoms and Treatment

Story at-a-glance

  • Depression is a widespread global problem, with over 300 million people dealing with this severe mood disorder today
  • Depression does not discriminate between gender, race or social status — anyone can be predisposed to it

It’s normal for people to sometimes feel sad, disappointed or disheartened, especially when they experience low points in their life. However, these “blues” usually go away when any happy circumstances occur.

But in some people, this low mood becomes persistent and lasts a long time — for weeks, months or even years. And if it comes with other hallmark symptoms, such as lack of interest in enjoyable activities, a feeling of hopelessness or thoughts about self-harm or even suicide, then watch out: You may be suffering from depression.

depressed woman in a dark room

Depression Defined: Know the Facts

The Mayo Clinic defines depression, also called clinical depression or major depressive disorder (MDD), as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.” This debilitating condition affects you entirely — how you behave, think and feel — and paves the way for emotional and physical problems to arise. Depressed individuals usually struggle with completing their day-to-day tasks, feeling as if there’s no more point in living.1

According to the Australian nonprofit organization Beyond Blue, there are different subtypes of depression depending on the symptoms, the intensity and their triggers. Some of the most common ones include manic depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymia, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or “the winter blues” and antepartum and postpartum depression (occurs specifically in pregnant women and new mothers).2

Depression is a widespread global problem, with over 300 million people dealing with this severe mood disorder today.3 Even in developed, industrialized countries, depression is rampant. In fact, in the United States, between 2013 and 2016, 8.1 percent of Americans who were 20 years old and older suffered from depression in a given two-week period.4

This Disorder Is Now a Prevalent Problem

Depression is not a simple condition that you can “snap out of.” If not addressed immediately, it can damage your physical health, leading to low immunity and worsened pain, or worse, substance abuse. According to a study published in Current Opinion in Psychiatry, up to 33 percent of people suffering from clinical depression are prone to drug or alcohol problems.5

Even more alarming is the link between depression and suicide. According to the American Association of Suicidology, depression is the psychiatric diagnosis that is most commonly linked to suicide.6 It’s said that 30 to 70 percent of people who commit suicide suffer from major depression or bipolar disorder.7,8

Keep an Eye Out for the Signs — Before It’s Too Late

Depression does not discriminate between gender, race or social status. Anyone can be predisposed to it. Given its potentially dangerous effects, it’s only wise to take the necessary precautions to address and treat this disorder before it spirals out of control. But a word to the wise: Antidepressants and other medications are NOT the best solution for depression, and may even have more debilitating and long-term side effects.

Read these articles and learn important facts about depression, including its hallmark symptoms, devastating effects and how to avoid it. Plus, learn natural yet useful remedies that will help alleviate this disorder but will not put you at risk for side effects, unlike conventional antidepressant medications. Stay informed now, so you can avoid or address this mental disorder immediately.

There Could Be a Biological Mechanism Behind Postpartum Depression, Says Study

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a devastating condition, affecting somewhere between 11 and 20 percent of women who give birth. Yet it’s complicated, and poorly understood.

Now, using mouse models, researchers have identified what could be an actual biological cause for the condition – at least in some patients. It all has to do with a pathway in the body that regulates stress.


When that pathway breaks down, the new study from Tufts University suggests that mothers are more likely to develop PPD.

PPD is distinct from the “baby blues,” a low mood that may hang around for a few days after giving birth. Not only is it longer lasting, but it can deepen into a sense of worthlessness, fatigue, anxiety, inability to bond with the baby and even suicidal thoughts.

It doesn’t just affect mothers either – postpartum depression correlates strongly with developmental and behavioural difficulties in infants.

Right now, up to 85 percent of mothers do not seek or receive help for PPD. This is partly because of the fact the condition is still so poorly understood.

But the discovery of a biological mechanism underlying postpartum depression could finally give scientists a better understanding of what causes some women to develop the condition and not others – and could also lead to more effective medication.

The new study revolves around a stress pathway in the body known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This pathway is responsible for triggering the famous fight-or-flight response, but during pregnancy it’s supposed to be suppressed to protect the foetus from stress.

One of the main drivers of this pathway is a hormone known as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CVH), which is released by the brain during times of stress.

Previous studies had shown a link between PPD, CVH, and the HPA axis, but until now no one had ever been able to figure out exactly how they all worked together.

The team used mouse models to show for the first time that when the HPA axis isn’t functioning normally, it can actually trigger PPD-like behaviours in mice.

“Our new study provides the first empirical evidence supporting the clinical observations of HPA axis dysfunction in patients with postpartum depression,” said one of the team, neuroscientist Jamie Maguire from Tufts University.

The first part of the experiment involved looking at a protein in the brain called KCC2. KCC2 is known to regulate how much CVN the brain releases, and therefore how much stress mice experience.

The team found that in virgin mice that were exposed to stress, KCC2 was suppressed, which indicated that CVN was unregulated.

But in stressed out pregnant and postpartum mice, KCC2 was active, which suggests it was stifling the stress response in the mothers.

Next, they developed mice that completely lacked KCC2, and compared these “knockout” mice with normal mice.

The knockout mice were much more stressed during pregnancy, and did not show a reduction in anxiety after giving birth, which would have been normal for the postpartum period. They also were more reluctant to mother their pups, approaching them more slowly, and spending less time with them.

To investigate further, the team then silenced the brain cells that usually secrete the stress-driving hormone CVN, and found that the mice without those active brain cells were less stressed and interacted more normally with their pups.

In other words, when CVN was blocked in pregnant mice through a number of different actions, mice were less likely to experience PPD-like symptoms.

This mechanism hasn’t yet been demonstrated in humans, but there have been clinical observations of a dysfunctional HPA axis and postpartum depression, so it’s definitely worth further investigation.

If the same link exists in humans, it could lead to a more effective way to treat the disease.

But, importantly, the researchers caution that the condition is highly complex and has several contributing mechanisms, so it’s unlikely that one treatment would work across all women.

The researchers next hope they will be able to develop a biological marker that can identify women vulnerable to postpartum depression because of a dysfunctional stress axis.

“There is much more we need to learn, but we believe our model will be useful for testing novel therapeutic compounds for postpartum depression,” Maguire said.

Neuroscientists shed light on causes of postpartum depression using new research model

Neuroscientists shed light on causes of postpartum depression using new research model
Tufts University neuroscientists Jamie Maguire (left) and Laverne Melón have generated a novel preclinical model of postpartum depression and demonstrated involvement of the neuroendocrine system that mediates physiological response to …more

Postpartum depression strikes nearly one in five new mothers, who may experience anxiety, severe fatigue, inability to bond with their children and suicidal thoughts. Such depression has also been associated with infants’ developmental difficulties. Although stress has been identified as a significant risk factor for postpartum depression, this complex disorder is still poorly understood. Now neuroscientists at Tufts University School of Medicine have generated a novel preclinical model of postpartum depression and demonstrated involvement of the neuroendocrine system that mediates physiological response to stress, called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is normally suppressed during and after pregnancy. The findings in mice provide the first empirical evidence that disruption of this system engenders behaviors that mimic postpartum depression in humans.

This study, to be published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology and now available online, provides a much-needed research model for further investigation into the causes of and treatment for , which has largely relied on correlational studies in humans because of the scarcity of animal models.

Stress is known to activate the HPA axis, which triggers the fight or flight response seen in many species. During and after pregnancy such activation is normally blunted – helping to insulate developing offspring from  – and dysregulation of the HPA axis has been suggested as playing a role in the physiology of postpartum .

The effects of stress on postpartum behavior are thought to be mediated by stress hormones because animal experiments show that stress and exogenous stress hormones can induce abnormal postpartum behaviors. However, clinical data on  in women with postpartum depression has been inconsistent. To date, research has not directly demonstrated a role for corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)—the main driver of the stress response, which is primarily secreted by a cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus called the paraventricular nucleus (PVN)—or for inappropriate activation of the HPA axis in postpartum depression.

“Some clinical studies show a relationship between CRH, HPA axis function and postpartum depression, but others fail to replicate these findings. Direct investigation into this relationship has been hindered due to the lack of useful animal models of such a complex disorder,” said Jamie Maguire, Ph.D., corresponding author on the new study, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine, and a member of the Neuroscience and Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics program faculties at Tufts’ Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.

“Using a mouse model that we developed, our new study provides the first empirical evidence supporting the clinical observations of HPA axis dysfunction in patients with postpartum depression and shows for the first time that dysregulation of the HPA axis and a specific protein in the brain, KCC2, can be enough to induce postpartum depression-like behaviors and deficits in maternal care,” she continued.

Maguire’s lab had previously shown a critical role for KCC2 in regulating CRH neurons and the physiological response to stress. The recent study investigated the specific role of KCC2 in regulating the HPA axis during and after pregnancy. Maguire and her colleagues assessed KCC2 expression in the PVN in virgin, pregnant and postpartum mice. They observed suppression (downregulation) of KCC2 in virgin mice exposed to stress but not in pregnant or postpartum mice. They propose that this contributes to the protective HPA hypofunction prior to birth, which is consistent with lower glucocorticoid levels observed in pregnant and postpartum mice and similar to findings in humans.

To further test the role of KCC2, the researchers developed mice that completely lacked KCC2 in CRH neurons and compared HPA axis function in these “knockout” mice with their normal (wildtype) littermates. Knockout mice demonstrated significantly more stress reactivity during the peripartum period, did not show the reduced anxiety typical of the , and exhibited abnormal maternal care compared with postpartum wildtype mice. Utilizing novel chemogenetic strategies to specifically activate or silence the CRH neurons in the PVN, researchers were able to pinpoint these abnormal behaviors to the activity of these specific neurons, which govern the HPA axis.

Identifying molecular targets and biological markers for postpartum depression”Pregnancy obviously involves great changes to a woman’s body, but we’re only now beginning to understand the significant unseen adaptations occurring at the neurochemical and circuitry level that may be important to maintaining mental health and maternal behavior in the first few weeks to months following delivery,” said Laverne Camille Melón, Ph.D., first author on the paper and postdoctoral fellow in the Maguire laboratory. “By uncovering the role for stability of KCC2 in the regulation of CRH neurons, the postpartum stress axis, and maternal behavior, we hope we have identified a potential molecular target for the development of a new class of compounds that are more effective for women suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety.”

Melón and Maguire do not believe that HPA axis dysfunction is the only pathological mechanism at work. “Many psychiatric and neurological disorders are a constellation of symptoms and represent an unfortunate synergy of heterogeneous maladaptations. The mechanisms underlying one woman’s postpartum depression may differ from another’s,” said Melón.

The researchers hope that continued work will enable them to identify a biological marker that characterizes women who may be vulnerable to postpartum depression because of dysregulation of the stress axis, potentially leading to new treatment options.

“There is much more we need to learn,” said Maguire, “but we believe our model will be useful for testing novel therapeutic compounds for postpartum depression. Such studies could also be relevant to other conditions in which KCC2 deficits are implicated, such as epilepsy, chronic pain and autism, and to other stress and anxiety related disorders.”

Saffron: A Safe and Effective Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Depression is a common health condition, with few conventional treatment options. Forced to choose between talk therapy and medication, many people choose to be treated with drugs. But what about new mothers, whose desire to breastfeed means they are not candidates for psychiatric meds? Nature is providing hope in the form of a delicate flower: saffron

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects as many as 1 in 7 new mothers. Characterized by deep mood swings, low energy, and a loss of interest in daily activities, postpartum depression may be caused by the sudden drops in estrogen and progesterone that occur in a woman’s body immediately after giving birth.[1]  Currently, the only approved medical treatments for postpartum depression are talk therapy and psychiatric medications. If a mother wishes to breastfeed, the pharmaceutical path is contraindicated due to contaminating breast milk with medication metabolites. Now, thanks to an exotic spice, there is another choice that demonstrates the power of nature to heal from within.

In December 2017, the journal Phytomedicine published the results of a clinical trial on saffron stigma for treating mothers suffering from postpartum depression. Saffron stigma are crimson-covered threads that are produced by the flowers of Crocus sativus L., commonly referred to as “saffron crocus.” A highly valued cooking spice, saffron is one of the world’s most expensive spices by weight.[2] Beyond saffron’s delicate flavor, often described as sweet and “hay like”, and rich golden hue used in traditional dyes, saffron’s use as a medicinal herb has been documented for more than 4,000 years.

In this study, researchers wanted to identify a non-pharmaceutical treatment option for breastfeeding mothers suffering from mild-to-moderate postpartum depressive disorder (PPD). A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 60 new mothers diagnosed with PPD using the Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (BDI-II). Participants were randomly assigned to either saffron or placebo group, with saffron group receiving a 15-mg per day dose of the powdered herb. After 8 weeks, new BDI-II scores were taken and compared to the baseline scores. Results showed that the saffron group experienced a 96% remission rate for postpartum depression, more than double the remission rate of placebo group. BDI-II scores decreased significantly for the women consuming saffron (from 20.3 ± 5.7 to 8.4 ± 3.7), while the placebo group experienced only a modest decrease in symptom scores (19.8 ± 3.2 to 15.1 ± 5.4). Researchers concluded that saffron can have a safe and significant mood-elevating impact for those suffering from postpartum depression who want to safely breast-feed their newborns.[3]

Other researchers have produced similarly encouraging findings about saffron’s potential as a natural antidepressant. A 2014 meta-analysis titled “Saffron for depression: a systematic review of clinical studies and examination of underlying antidepressant mechanisms of action” analyzed six studies on saffron for treating depression. Researchers determined conclusively that “saffron had large treatment effects” on depression. When compared with antidepressant medications, saffron was found to have similar efficacy – without the side effects.  Saffron’s antidepressant properties have been attributed to its “serotonergic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuro-endocrine, and neuroprotective effects.”[4]

It is a commonly held misbelief that holistic treatments for depression are only viable when a person is experiencing mild-to-moderate depression symptoms. Another meta-analysis of saffron for major depressive disorders dispels this concern. In this 2013 review of five studies on saffron for major depressive disorder, researchers noted that a “large effect” was seen in saffron-treated patients versus placebo, concluding that “saffron supplementation can improve symptoms of depression in adults with major depressive disorder.”[5]

Saffron’s impressive ability to elevate mood is backed-up by at least seven additional proven health benefits. Rich in B vitamins and manganese, adding this beautiful spice to your diet also provides a nutritional boost.

Low levels of ‘anti-anxiety’ hormone linked to postpartum depression: Effect measured in women already diagnosed with mood disorders.

Effect measured in women already diagnosed with mood disorders

In a small-scale study of women with previously diagnosed mood disorders, researchers report that lower levels of the hormone allopregnanolone in the second trimester of pregnancy were associated with an increased chance of developing postpartum depression in women already known to be at risk for the disorder.

In a small-scale study of women with previously diagnosed mood disorders, Johns Hopkins researchers report that lower levels of the hormone allopregnanolone in the second trimester of pregnancy were associated with an increased chance of developing postpartum depression in women already known to be at risk for the disorder.

In a report on the study, published online on March 7 in Psychoneuroendocrinology, the researchers say the findings could lead to diagnostic markers and preventive strategies for the condition, which strikes an estimated 15 to 20 percent of American women who give birth.

The researchers caution that theirs was an observational study in women already diagnosed with a mood disorder and/or taking antidepressants or mood stabilizers, and does not establish cause and effect between the progesterone metabolite and postpartum depression. But it does, they say, add to evidence that hormonal disruptions during pregnancy point to opportunities for intervention.

Postpartum depression affects early bonding between the mother and child. Untreated, it has potentially devastating and even lethal consequences for both. Infants of women with the disorder may be neglected and have trouble eating, sleeping and developing normally, and an estimated 20 percent of postpartum maternal deaths are thought to be due to suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Many earlier studies haven’t shown postpartum depression to be tied to actual levels of pregnancy hormones, but rather to an individual’s vulnerability to fluctuations in these hormones, and they didn’t identify any concrete way to tell whether a woman would develop postpartum depression,” says Lauren M. Osborne, M.D., assistant director of the Johns Hopkins Women’s Mood Disorders Center and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “For our study, we looked at a high-risk population of women already diagnosed with mood disorders and asked what might be making them more susceptible.”

For the study, 60 pregnant women between the ages of 18 and 45 were recruited by investigators at study sites at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. About 70 percent were white and 21.5 percent were African-American. All women had been previously diagnosed with a mood disorder, such as major depression or bipolar disorder. Almost a third had been previously hospitalized due to complications from their mood disorder, and 73 percent had more than one mental illness.

During the study, 76 percent of the participants used psychiatric medications, including antidepressants or mood stabilizers, and about 75 percent of the participants were depressed at some point during the investigation, either during the pregnancy or shortly thereafter.

During the second trimester (about 20 weeks pregnant) and the third trimester (about 34 weeks pregnant), each participant took a mood test and gave 40 milliliters of blood. Forty participants participated in the second-trimester data collection, and 19 of these women, or 47.5 percent, developed postpartum depression at one or three months postpartum. The participants were assessed and diagnosed by a clinician using criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version IV for a major depressive episode.

Of the 58 women who participated in the third-trimester data collection, 25 of those women, or 43.1 percent, developed postpartum depression. Thirty-eight women participated in both trimester data collections.

Using the blood samples, the researchers measured the blood levels of progesterone and allopregnanolone, a byproduct made from the breakdown of progesterone and known for its calming, anti-anxiety effects.

The researchers found no relationship between progesterone levels in the second or third trimesters and the likelihood of developing postpartum depression. They also found no link between the third-trimester levels of allopregnanolone and postpartum depression. However, they did notice a link between postpartum depression and diminished levels of allopregnanolone levels in the second trimester.

For example, according to the study data, a woman with an allopregnanolone level of 7.5 nanograms per milliliter had a 1.5 percent chance of developing postpartum depression. At half that level of hormone (about 3.75 nanograms per milliliter), a mother had a 33 percent likelihood of developing the disorder. For every additional nanogram per milliliter increase in allopregnanolone, the risk of developing postpartum depression dropped by 63 percent.

“Every woman has high levels of certain hormones, including allopregnanolone, at the end of pregnancy, so we decided to look earlier in the pregnancy to see if we could tease apart small differences in hormone levels that might more accurately predict postpartum depression later,” says Osborne. She says that many earlier studies on postpartum depression focused on a less ill population, often excluding women whose symptoms were serious enough to warrant psychiatric medication — making it difficult to detect trends in those women most at risk.

Because the study data suggest that higher levels of allopregnanolone in the second trimester seem to protect against postpartum depression, Osborne says in the future, her group hopes to study whether allopregnanolone can be used in women at risk to prevent postpartum depression. She says Johns Hopkins is one of several institutions currently participating in a clinical trial led by Sage Therapeutics that is looking at allopregnanolone as a treatment for postpartum depression.

She also cautions that additional and larger studies are needed to determine whether women without mood disorders show the same patterns of allopregnanolone levels linked to postpartum depression risk.

If those future studies confirm a similar impact, Osborne says, then tests for low levels of allopregnanolone in the second trimester could be used as a biomarker to predict those mothers who are at risk of developing postpartum depression.

Osborne and her colleagues previously showed and replicated in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2016 that epigenetic modifications to two genes could be used as biomarkers to predict postpartum depression; these modifications target genes that work with estrogen receptors and are sensitive to hormones. These biomarkers were already about 80 percent effective at predicting postpartum depression, and Osborne hopes to examine whether combining allopregnanolone levels with the epigenetic biomarkers may improve the effectiveness of the tests to predict postpartum depression.

Of note and seemingly contradictory, she says, many of the participants in the study developed postpartum depression while on antidepressants or mood stabilizers. The researchers say that the medication dosages weren’t prescribed by the study group and were monitored by the participant’s primary care physician, psychiatrist or obstetrician instead. “We believe that many, if not most, women who become pregnant are undertreated for their depression because many physicians believe that smaller doses of antidepressants are safer for the baby, but we don’t have any evidence that this is true,” says Osborne. “If the medication dose is too low and the mother relapses into depression during pregnancy or the postpartum period, then the baby will be exposed to both the drugs and the mother’s illness.”

Osborne and her team are currently analyzing the medication doses used by women in this study to determine whether those given adequate doses of antidepressants were less likely to develop symptoms in pregnancy or in postpartum.

Only 15 percent of women with postpartum depression are estimated to ever receive professional treatment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many physicians don’t screen for it, and there is a stigma for mothers. A mother who asks for help may be seen as incapable of handling her situation as a mother, or may be criticized by friends or family for taking a medication during or shortly after pregnancy.

Journal Reference:

  1. Lauren M. Osborne, Fiona Gispen, Abanti Sanyal, Gayane Yenokyan, Samantha Meilman, Jennifer L. Payne. Lower allopregnanolone during pregnancy predicts postpartum depression: An exploratory study. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2017; 79: 116 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.02.012


Hayden Panettiere Enters Treatment for Postpartum Depression: The Truth About This Misunderstood Condition

Nashville star Hayden Panettiere has entered a treatment facility for postpartum depression, her publicist told on Tuesday (Oct. 13).

Panettiere, whose daughter Kaya Evdokia is 10 months old, has been candid about her struggle with the disorder.

The 26-year-old’s TV character Juliette Barnes is also struggling with postpartum depression, which Panettiere has said she can relate to.

“It’s something a lot of women experience,” she said last month on Live! with Kelly and Michael. “When [you’re told] about postpartum depression you think it’s ‘I feel negative feelings towards my child, I want to injure or hurt my child’ — I’ve never, ever had those feelings. Some women do. But you don’t realize how broad of a spectrum you can really experience that on. It’s something that needs to be talked about. Women need to know that they’re not alone, and that it does heal.”

But Panettiere’s struggle seemed to be behind her. She posted the following message on Twitter late last week:

While it may seem unusual for a mother to seek treatment for postpartum depression when her child is nearly a year old, experts say it actually isn’t. “The public has an idea that postpartum depression is just in the short term, but it certainly is not,” Julie Lamppa, RN, a certified nurse midwife at the Mayo Clinic, tells Yahoo Health. “It can happen any time in the first year after a baby is born.”

Karen Kleiman, LCSW, director of the Postpartum Stress Center, and author of several books on postpartum depression, including This Isn’t What I Expected, tells Yahoo Health that she sees women in her facility at any point in the first postpartum year “and sometimes beyond.”

Kleiman says women may wait to seek help because family and friends tell them their symptoms are normal or they confuse them with the “baby blues.”

“Baby blues occur within the first two to three weeks postpartum,” Kleiman says. “But symptoms beyond two to three weeks such as crying too much, feeling constantly irritable, feeling bad about attaching to your baby, or having scary thoughts — it is not baby blues and it is not OK.”

Anxiety is another big indicator of postpartum depression, Lamppa says, adding that it’s different from basic new-mom worries in that every thought turns into a worst-case scenario.

The public often has an incorrect impression of what constitutes postpartum depression, which Lamppa says can be dangerous for the 15 percent of new moms who experience it.

As Panettiere pointed out, many people think postpartum depression involves having thoughts about harming your baby or yourself, but Lamppa says that’s a “much rarer” symptom known as “postpartum psychosis.” Most women who suffer from the disorder experience a range of symptoms that may have nothing to do with their feelings toward their baby.

“Often mothers with postpartum depression are incredibly good moms,” says Kleiman. “They’re very good at taking care of their baby, not at taking care of themselves.”

These feelings and symptoms can persist for long periods of time and can even get worse if they’re not treated. It’s possible to get better without treatment, Kleiman says, but it’s also possible for women to continue on with a “low-grade, high-functioning form of depression” that can last for a long period of time.

Once women realize they need help, Lamppa says it’s important to turn to their OB/GYN, general health provider, or a therapist who they’ve previously worked with for assistance.

Treatment typically involves talk therapy and may include antidepressants. But experts stress that women can — and will — recover from postpartum depression.

“People just need to realize that this is not a shameful thing,” says Lamppa. “It happens to more people than you realize.”

Oxytocin Receptor May Influence Postpartum Depression, Be Potential Biomarker

Women with a history of depression prior to their pregnancy face an increased chance of developing postpartum depression (PPD) — as much as 41 percent, according to theAmerican Psychological Association. An estimated nine to 16 percent of women without a history of mental illness will also experience PPD. Is there any way of knowing which of these women will be affected? A new study published in Frontiers in Genetics may have found a potential biomarker for the condition.

The biomarker stems from the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR). Oxytocin, also (and more commonly) known as the love hormone, plays a role in everything from a healthy birth to mood and emotional regulation. Previous studies have already associated low levels of oxytocin with PPD.

In this particular study, researchers hypothesized that “individual epigenetic variability at OXTR may impact the development of PPD and that such variability may be central to predicting risk.” They analyzed data collected in 269 cases of PPD, which included genotype and DNA methylation that had been extracted from women’s blood, as well as data from 276 women in a control group who were similar in “age, parity, and presence or absence of depressive symptoms in pregnancy.”

Researchers focused on how the aforementioned data influenced symptoms of PPD, and the results showed an interaction occurred between genotype and methylation among women who had not experienced prenatal depression but were now experiencing PPD. These findings suggest oxytocin may play an even greater role in maternal behavior than once thought.

“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,” Jessica Connelly, senior study author and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, said in a press release. “We know that women who have experienced depression before pregnancy are at higher risk of developing depression in the postpartum period. However, women who have never experienced depression also develop postpartum depression. These markers we identified may help to identify them, in advance.”

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development are also focusing on the risk factors and outcomes of developing PPD. In a recent collaboration, the two institutes directed a new video about PPD in order to “raise awareness about issues affecting women and their families throughout the lifespan, including mental disorders such as [PPD], and issues that can impact mental health, including bullying and aging.”

Watch the video. URL: