Big Breakthrough In Treatment of Postnatal Depression


Postnatal depression (PND) is the term used to describe the state of hopelessness and despair that affects one in seven women after childbirth. Researchers have pointed out that PND is not to be confused with the feelings of sadness and stress that most women feel after childbirth. It is a specific form of depression that is much more debilitating. PND starts as early as two weeks after child-birth and is characterized by crying spells, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, irritability, anxiety, lack of appetite and sleeplessness. It not only affects the mother, but may also adversely impact children because depressed mothers often do not have the energy necessary to interact with their children in loving ways that foster healthy emotional and physical development.

In the past, the cause of postnatal depression has been attributed to hormonal changes as a result of childbirth. However, researchers at Warwick Medical School, after doing a study of 200 pregnant women, concluded that it was possible to tell in advance which of the women would suffer from postnatal depression. The researchers found that the women, who developed postnatal depression, had specific genetic variance of receptor genes that control stress response. This means that some women, by their genetic makeup, are more prone to developing postnatal depression; and the factors surrounding childbirth are merely triggers that set off the depression.

According to the researchers, the implication of this research is astronomical as it means it is now plausible that a blood test could be developed to identify pregnant women who are at risk for postnatal depression. This would enable doctors and mental health professionals to be more proactive in treating postnatal depression, rather than reacting to it when the suffering has already begun. The significance of this breakthrough is captured in the comments of Professor Grammatopoulos when he said, “We believe that we have made a discovery with important clinical and social implications. If we can identify women likely to suffer from PND in advance so that they can be treated appropriately and at an early stage, we will have improved the lives not just of the parents, but also of their children.”




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