Saw lots of headlines last week … or was it the week before … about how a nutritional supplement could be the answer to postpartum depression.



I didn't write about it then because I had the feeling that was an oversimplification. So I waited to see if I could learn a bit more.

The headlines were based on research published May11 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, entitled "Elevated Brain Monoamine Oxidase ABinding in the Early Postpartum Period".

Yeah, I don't know what that means either.

Thankfully, Medscape helped to clarify:

"During the first postpartum week, when postpartum blues tend to occur, women experience a "dramatic" increase in monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) binding in key areas of the brain that affect mood, according to results of a study in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

"MAO-A metabolizes serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, and excess depletion of these chemicals results in low mood," Jeffrey H. Meyer, MD, PhD, of University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, an investigator on the study, noted in a telephone interview with Medscape Psychiatry

OK. But the baby blues and postpartum depression are twoseparate things. What's the connection?

"Given that postpartum depression is so common, maybe there is an underlying change that happens early in post partum that puts women generally at risk for depression," Dr. Meyer said. A spike in MAO-A right after delivery, fueled by rapidly declining estrogen levels, could be one such change.

If confirmed in future studies, the finding could have potentially important clinical implications in terms of preventing postpartum depression, Dr. Meyer noted.

"Because MAO-A is elevated in this 4- to 6-day postpartum time period, it might be important to try to give nutrients that will replace what MAO-A moves during this time period," he told Medscape Psychiatry. "We are going to do a study to see if there might be a health supplement that can do this and possibly reduce the risk of postpartum depression."

In addition, "MAO-A inhibitors might end up being particularly useful for postpartum depression in the future," Dr. Meyer said.

Interesting. We'll just have to wait and see.

Click here for more stories on the potential prevention of postpartum depression.