Biomarker for postpartum depression could aid development of treatment

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For many women, the joy of birth is often followed by a stint of depression, otherwise known as the baby blues. These unsettling after effects typically pass within a week. However, 13% of mothers will see this develop into postpartum depression, which can negatively influence the health of mother and child.

A Canadian-German research team has found that women who experience postpartum depression have strongly elevated levels of monoamine oxidase A, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. Even the women who didn’t develop depression after birth, but found themselves crying more than often showed elevated levels of the enzyme. In most women, these levels return to normal rather quickly, but in others, they remain raised, which promotes the development of depression. These findings could help in the development of drugs for treatment and prevention. 

Up until now, treatment for postpartum depression usually includes drugs that increase serotonin in the brain. Because monoamine oxidase A breaks down serotonin, finding a treatment that directly targets the enzyme could prove more effective, especially in more extreme cases of depression. Unfortunately, complex technology is required to measure the enzyme, making routine testing unsuitable. The researchers are hoping to find a peripheral marker of the enzyme that could be detected in saliva or blood.

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About Author

Ethan Levinskas is a writer living in North Hollywood where he enjoys a consistent diet of oven baked pizzas and blessing each slice with his shameless tears. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Cinema Art + Science (yes, that is the degree name) at Columbia College Chicago with a focus in screenwriting. He enjoys keeping up to date with the evolving technology behind the gaming, film, and music industries. His goal is to one day have people enjoy his stories from a reclined leather seat with a bag of overpriced popcorn in their hands.

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