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Postpartum depression more heritable than we thought

mom and newborn

Postpartum depression is a subtype of major depressive disorder that affects about 14% of women after giving birth. The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to those of regular depression, but there's also excessive crying. Most people attribute postpartum depression to environmental and psychological factors, such as the difficult thought of having to be responsible for a baby and the major life transition, as some first-time moms might be expected to feel.

However, new research shows that postpartum depression is more hereditary than we have always thought. Postpartum depression (PPD) is even more heritable than major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric conditions.

But up until now, not much research has been done to see how heritable it could be, unlike the level of attention other mental illnesses get as regards genetics. Not until Jerry Guintivano alongside an international team of researchers conducted the largest-ever meta-analyses of genome-wide association studies to investigate the genetic makeup of postpartum depression.

The research shows that about 14% of the variations in postpartum depression cases are associated with genetic factors. Rather than being influenced by past trauma or personal thoughts, postpartum depression often manifests because of the woman's genes.

Also, the genetic makeup of postpartum depression is highly similar to that of major depression, anxiety, and other disorders.

Furthermore, the researchers found that brexanolone, the only FDA-approved PPD treatment (because of its efficacy in treating the condition), is effective because of how it acts with specific neurons related to your genes, known as the GABAergic neurons.

This discovery is a significant breakthrough as it can lead to more targeted — and therefore more effective — treatments for postpartum depression.

"We now have preliminary evidence suggesting we should target GABAergic neurons in the thalamus and hypothalamus for future research," Guintivano said.

More on the research here.

Battling postpartum depression?

If you're experiencing postpartum depression right now and feel bad about being a mom, know that you're not alone; and most importantly, you're not a bad person for feeling the way you do. Consider it your body acting against you.

But we can help.

There are medications for postpartum depression to help you feel better to care for yourself and your newborn. Do not hesitate, as every moment lost is more time for you to spiral down into deeper depression. We'd love to help.

Come, let's talk.

Author
Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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