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Beating postpartum blues with amino acids and antioxidants

The more serious condition of postpartum depression is often preceded by the very common and short-lived postpartum blues. A specific combination of supplements was looked at for prevention of the postpartum blues.

Study under review: Selective dietary supplementation in early postpartum is associated with high resilience against depressed mood

Introduction

Maternal depression after childbirth (postpartum depression) is estimated to affect 13% of childbearing women, with serious adverse consequences on the welfare of the entire family and the psychological development[1] of the newborn. Importantly, postpartum depression is distinct[2] from postpartum blues, which is a relatively common emotional condition associated[3] with the hormonal changes accompanying childbirth, characterized by crying, confusion, anxiety, and a depressed mood state. Symptoms appear within a week of giving birth and last for a few hours to a few days.

Despite the relatively normal and benign nature of the postpartum blues, some evidence[4] suggests that it may increase the risk of developing postpartum depression; one study[5] found a risk of postpartum depression of 6% in those without severe postpartum blues, but a 23% risk in those with it. Changes in brain function are one possible explanation for the link between these two neuropsychiatric conditions. Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A, outlined in Figure 1) is an enzyme responsible for breaking down serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline in the brain and has been implicated[6] in the onset, progression, and therapy of depression.

Figure 1: MAO-A degrades neurotransmitters

Observational research suggests that MAO-A may also be elevated in women with the postpartum blues. For example, one study[7] documented that MAO-A density in the brain was significantly greater among women who gave birth four to six days earlier, when compared to healthy non-pregnant women. A follow-up investigation[8] showed that women with postpartum blues have similar levels of MAO-A density in the brain as women with postpartum depression, both of which were significantly higher than women without postpartum blues and non-pregnant women. So, if MAO-A increases during postpartum blues, this increase could persist, in theory raising the risk for full-blown postpartum depression.

Considering the link between postpartum blues and postpartum depression, reducing the severity of the postpartum blues may be an effective prevention strategy against postpartum depression. The study under review is a pilot trial testing the effectiveness of a dietary supplement to reduce the severity of the postpartum blues, based on its association with elevated MAO-A levels.

The postpartum blues is a common emotional state of crying and depressed mood that occurs shortly after giving birth. Some evidence suggests that it may increase the risk of suffering from postpartum depression, possibly because both conditions have been associated with an increase in brain levels of monoamine oxidase A, an enzyme responsible for breaking down serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. The study under review tests the effectiveness of a dietary supplement to reduce the severity of postpartum blues through negating the effects of MAO-A increases.

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