A press release just out on July 30, 2008 states a new study provides critical insight into the disabling depression experienced by many women during early motherhood. The research, published by Cell Press in the July 31 issue of the journal Neuron, reveals new details about the pathogenesis of postpartum depression and provides a mouse model that may lead to development of new treatments for mood disorders associated with pregnancy.
The study finds that in pregnant and postpartum mice when there is a deficiency of GABA receptors (GABAAR's), the mice, exhibited depression-like and abnormal maternal behaviors, resulting in decreased pup survival. Importantly, treatment of the mice with a GABAAR subunit-selective agonist to boost GABA activity alleviated abnormal postpartum behaviors and increased pup survival. Read the press release at EurekAlert.
What is GABA? Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is one of the major inhibitory neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. GABA increases the wakeful alpha brain waves producing a relaxed and effortless alertness. GABA decreases stressful beta brain waves that decrease mental concentration and focus. GABA induced higher alpha and lower beta brain waves result in heightened relaxation, arousal, anti-stress, and better concentration.
In laymen terms, without sufficient GABA we feel depressed. As for why in some mice ( or new mothers) there is a deficiency, they are not exactly sure yet. You can read about postpartum depression at Women's Health.
It is a significant finding though to isolate the chemical that may cause the baby blues or postpartum depression. And hopefully, we will find a more definitive answer and solution soon.
When I had my son, I fortunately didn't experience the baby blues, but my heart goes out to those women whom has suffered from the baby blues or worse, postpartum depression. To not be able to fully enjoy the whole experience of motherhood would be difficult to say the least. But with more studies the baby blues and postpartum depression may be a thing of the past.