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Mum’s depression different to other types

Do you know a new mum who’s got the blues? Though her symptoms – like withdrawal, loss of appetite and irritability – may seem similar to typical depression, a new study has shown they might in fact be different.

Researchers from universities in the US, Canada and France analysed the neurobiology of women with postpartum depression (PPD) and anxiety. They found that it was distinctive. Specifically, when they compared the women’s fMRI scans to that of people with clinical depression, they discovered that, for one, the mothers’ amygdalae were less active.

This matters because it could ultimately lead to an alteration in the treatment of PPD and anxiety, which are under-researched areas.

The review’s co-author, behavioural neuroscientist Jodi Pawluski of the University of Rennes 1 in France, said: “When we talk about the neurobiology of postpartum depression and anxiety, our information from the studies done on humans is only comprised from about 20 papers.

“If you think that 10–20 per cent of women during pregnancy and the postpartum period will suffer from depression and/or anxiety, and then you realise there are only 20 publications looking at the neurobiology of these illnesses, it’s quite shocking.”

A mother herself, Pawluski is eager to find solutions to this complex issue, because motherhood, though “fantastic”, is “not always a happy time”.

She noted that the children of these mothers would also benefit from better maternal PPD and anxiety treatment, as they tend to have more long-term negative mental health issues than their peers.

Pawluski is determined to comprehensively understand PPD for the sake of families. The publication of her team’s findings in Trends in Neurosciences is a robust start.

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