This is Your Brain on the Postpartum Blues

by Ann Douglas

Postpartum BluesElevated levels of a brain protein known to deplete the body of feel-good hormones like serotonin may be responsible for triggering powerful feelings of sadness in new mothers. That's the key finding to emerge from a study conducted at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health and published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers discovered that, four to six days after she gives birth, levels of the brain protein monoamine oxidase A (MOA-A) are elevated by 43 percent in a new mom's brain (as compared to levels of the protein in the brains of women who have not recently been pregnant). MOA-A levels reach their peak on Day 5, the day when the postpartum blues tends to be at their worst.

The researchers involved in the study hope that their findings will lead to the development of nutritional supplements that could compensate for the nutrients that become depleted by high MAO-A levels, thereby reducing the risk that a woman will develop postpartum depression (a condition that affects approximately 1 in 8 new mothers).

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.