CAMH researchers uncover possible biological link for Postpartum Mood Disorders

Researchers at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, or CAMH, have recently published an intriguing study regarding a biological link to Postpartum Mood Disorders.

The study involved 30 women; 15 of whom were immediately postpartum and 15 who were not at all postpartum. All women underwent PET scans to measure MAO-A binding.

The findings are stunning.

Normal women who have just delivered a baby had 43% higher MAO-A levels than women who had not given birth.

Why is this stunning?

Well, it has to do with the role of MAO-A in the body. MAO-A is a protein which helps to remove chemicals from your body like serotonin which help you maintain a good mood. Elevated levels of MAO-A means that more serotonin is being cleaned out of your body, thus making you sadder. Wait, there’s a kicker. The highest MAO-A levels were recorded on Day 5 post-delivery, the most severe day of the baby blues.

Interestingly enough, MAO-A is also located in the placenta, in the  Syncytiotrophoblast layer where moms and babies exchange nutrients.

While social struggles and lack of support may exacerbate the symptoms and increase the recovery from a Postpartum Mood Disorder, researchers like Dr. Jeffrey Meyer and Dr. Michael Silverman are peeling back more and more layers each and every day. They’re exploring deeper than ever before into a neurobiological basis of Postpartum Mood Disorders which may one day allow us to successfully avoid the experience all together. What a day that will be! Until then, we need to continue to provide non-judgmental and compassionate support for moms and families struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder. It’s through the careful marriage of research, social support and medical support that we will best reach recovery.

Additional Sources:

A New Biological Explanation for Sadness in early Postpartum, CAMH Press Release, retrieved 05/04/2010


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