September 29, 2010

Moms with postpartum depression apparently have reduced brain activity - one more thing to worry about

I came across a recent article on about a recently published study linking postpartum depression to diminished brain activity. The study, published in this month's edition of American Journal of Psychiatry, was done by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and was partly funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD).

Basically what the study says is that women suffering from postpartum depression may have reduced brain activity in certain regions of their brains that are involved in emotional processing. So, depressed moms are not as in tune with others' emotions, nor are they as responsive to emotional cues as they should be. When her baby cries, a mom with PPD may not react or respond as she would if she weren't depressed.

I don't know why this would be a surprise to anyone, and I'm not really sure the point of the study. The author of the article asserts that the study will benefit future treatment of PPD, but I'm not so sure about that. For one thing, only 30 mothers participated in the study - 14 who were determined to be "depressed," and 16 who were "healthy." This doesn't seem like a large enough population sample.

Another thing that bothers me about this study is that the focus seemed to be on the mom-baby attachment, and when you get into this sticky area, you run the risk of blaming moms for a lack of attachment. And you wonder what the real goal is. Treatment shouldn't be focused on improving the level of attachment a mom has for her baby. The goal of treatment should be getting the mom healthy and free from PPD. Mom-baby bonding is but one of many aspects that will improve as she recovers and breaks free from PPD.

We need to focus more on avoiding PPD to begin with instead of treating just one of the issues connected with the disorder.


Mariana said...

Hi Kristin,
I agree with you about this study. It is very limited and yet by putting it out there it tends to further alienate women. My questions would be do all people with depression have changes in brain waves? Seems pretty likely to me.

Kristin said...

Hi, Mari,

Excellent question you've raised, and yes, it does seem pretty likely. I don't exactly understand the reasoning behind this study at all or how it will help prevent and/or treat PPD. I think studies like this only contribute to the misperceptions and stigma that already exists out there when it comes to PPD and other perinatal mood disorders.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving your comment! I'll definitely your blog as well!!

Warm regards,

Mariana said...

Thanks Kristin!

It's wonderful how many more women are starting to talk about PPD and are also wanting to get involved to make changes for other women.

Together we can make a difference.

hollow said...