A 2013study indicates that one in seven women in the United States suffer from postpartum depression. This is a type of depression which mothers feel after they give birth. Women who suffer from this condition often have a lower level of the hormone oxytocin, which is also known as the “love hormone” since it has a critical role in maternal bonding, the development of a healthy birth, mood regulation and lower stress levels.
That’s the assumption which the researchers started from when they conducted the study. The paper was published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics and was led by Professor Jessica Connelly from the University of Virginia who collaborated with other institutions from England and US.
The researchers analyzed 545 mother: 269 of them suffered from postpartum depression, while 276 did not. They observed that there was a link between the genetic and epigenetic markers in the hormone oxytocin and this led to an increased risk of depression.
The research team believes that this can help treating postpartum depression and women who have not experienced depression but are at risk as well.
Professor Connelly remarked:
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.”
The researchers also drew attention to the fact that this is only the first step in developing treatments for postpartum depression. The first author of the study Aleeca Bell of the University of Illinois said that their data needs to be replicated, but they hope that the oxytocin receptor marker which they discovered will help clinicians to identify women who are at risk.
At present postpartum depression is treated through cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant drugs. Women who suffer from this condition experience negative feelings towards the baby. For example they can feel disconnected from their child or feel numb regarding him or her. They may experience irrational fears about the infant’s wellbeing and a constant worry which is not good for the baby. Mother with postpartum depression can also feel guilty because they believe that they cannot take care of their own child.
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