A big step in finding a cure for postpartum depression

Posted on August 1, 2008. Filed under: childbirth, children, depression, maternal health, medical research, medicine, news, postpartum depression, pregnancy, science, women, women's health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Scientists have discovered a mechanism in the brains of mice that would definitely help in finding a much improved method to treat postpartum depression in human mothers. Read this article from the Science Daily for more information.


To put it briefly, the level of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone fluctuates during pregnancy and childbirth, though it was not clear how it affects the behaviour. The researchers found evidence that led them to believe that the hormones affect the mood through the brain’s neurotransmitter system called GABA. They discovered that a receptor subunit of GABA fluctuated in the brains of female mice during and after pregnancy. To test the theory of a possible link between the subunit and the hormones, they used genetically modified mice that lack the gene for that particular subunit. After giving birth, the female mice exhibited behaviour similar to that of human mothers who suffer from depression after childbirth. By administering a drug (THIP – a hypnotic and antinociceptive drug that can restore the functioning of the receptor), the behaviour of the mice showed marked improvement. The scientists concluded that the GABA system’s ability to adapt to the fluctuating hormone levels depended on the proper functioning of the subunit, at least in mice.

About 15-25% of human mothers (especially those who give birth for the first time) are believed to suffer from some form of postpartum depression. In extreme cases, it may also lead to the mother harming her own child. Women’s health is a very complex issue and the health and well-being of mothers is usually neglected during and after childbirth. This discovery would surely help in finding new and better treatments for postpartum depression.

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