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Postpartum Depression Affects Maternal Offspring

Update Date: Oct 09, 2013 04:58 PM EDT

Mothers who suffer from high levels of social stress result in impairing their own ability to take care of their children. However, they may also impair their daughter's ability to provide care to future offspring says a recent study.   

According to Tufts University, Health Sciences Campus, "Researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University conducted a transgenerational study with female rats, examining the behavioral and physiological changes in mothers exposed to chronic social stress early in life as a model for postpartum depression and anxiety."

WebDM says, "Postpartum depression seems to be brought on by the changes in hormone levels that occur after pregnancy. Any woman can get postpartum depression in the months after childbirth, miscarriage, or stillbirth." 

Researchers performed their analysis based on the reaction first-generation mothers had to a male rat placed with themselves and their new born pups for an hour a day for the span of 15 days. Another analysis was executed by mating second generation females after they reached maturation where both the mother and pup lived without a male invader.

Benjamin C. Nephew, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at TCSVM and investigator of the study found that the first generation mother rats responded to the stress of the intruder with depressed maternal care, impaired lactation, and increased anxiety. In addition, the second generation mothers that experienced high levels of early life stress also displayed identical symptoms as the first. 

Noticeable in the mothers with high stress, "there were also changes to hormone levels: an increase in the stress hormone corticosterone, and decreases in oxytocin, prolactin (important to both maternal behavior and lactation) and estradiol," according to the study.

This proves to say that by viewing chronic social stress both in humans and animals a lot can be learned to treat patients who suffer from first generation or second generation affects. 

"The endocrine and behavioral data are consistent with what has been reported in studies of depressed human mothers. The potential with this animal model is that it can be used to study new preventive measures and treatments for postpartum depression and anxiety, and the adverse effects of these disorders on offspring," said Nephew in a news release. 

The findings are published in Hormones and Behavior

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