Reported August 05, 2008
(Ivanhoe Newswire) — New research provides insight into the disabling depression experienced by many new mothers and may lead to better treatment.
Postpartum depression has been linked to changes in steroid hormone levels in the brain, but experts believe other factors also contribute to the condition.
Researchers recently observed in mice a significant decrease in brain components containing GABAA receptors during pregnancy. The receptors are part of the GABA neurotransmitter system, which has been linked to anxiety disorders. They are also a major target for neurosteroid hormones, which play a role in mood. After giving birth, researchers say the GABAA-containing components appeared to rebound, probably because neurosteroid hormones, which increase during pregnancy, drop quickly after birth.
Researchers also looked at mice deficient in these components and found they suffered from depression-like behaviors following the birth of their litters and demonstrated other abnormal maternal behaviors that led to lower survival of their pups. When the mice were treated with a substance to boost GABA activity, their behavior normalized and pup survival increased.
Istvan Mody, Ph.D., study author from the University of California, Los Angeles, believes these mouse models will foster further insights into the mechanisms of postpartum depression and may provide much needed therapeutic potential for the large number of new mothers suffering from mood disorders.
SOURCE: Neuron, published online July 30, 2008