How Does Postpartum Depression Affect The Brain?

How Does Postpartum Depression Affect The Brain

What happens to the brain during PPD?

Like other forms of depression, postpartum depression (PPD) is often associated with a neurotransmitter imbalance. Many new mothers with PPD have low serotonin or norepinephrine levels in the brain that are aggravated by nutritional deficiencies.

How does maternal depression affect brain development?

3. Perinatal depression and child neurocognitive development – Neurocognitive development refers to the full range of mental activities and abilities, including memory, language, learning, problem solving, perception, and higher abilities such as executive functions involving attention and behavioral control, which are important for self-regulation ( 21 ).

  1. Specifically, executive functions refer to a set of cognitive and self-regulatory processes such as working memory, inhibitory control, and flexibility of attention necessary to plan future behaviors, make predictions, enact goal-oriented behaviors, and adapt to novelty ( 22, 23 ).
  2. In close correspondence with the rapid maturation of the brain and prefrontal cortex ( 24 ), neurocognitive development accelerates in the second half of the first year, leading to improvements in executive performance between 8 and 12 months.

Importantly, these abilities are particularly flexible ( 15, 25 ) because the prefrontal cortex, which underlies the development of executive functions, shows plasticity and sensitivity to early care and experiences. In addition, maturation of the prefrontal cortex and other involved brain structures occurs over a long period of time, making cognitive functioning open to positive environmental input, but at the same time vulnerable to early adversity ( 20, 24 ).

Alterations in executive function have been shown to cause lifelong effects, such as problem behavior in preschool ( 26 ), higher incidence of specific learning disorders ( 27 ), internalizing and externalizing disorders in childhood ( 28 ), school dropout ( 29 ), and lower academic achievement ( 30 ).

Prenatal stress has been related to higher anxiety, depression, larger amygdala volume, and altered neural connectivity in girls ( 31 – 34 ) and to higher frequency of disturbances or delays in neuromuscular and cognitive development in general ( 34, 35 ).

Assessments conducted on children’s nonverbal communication skills at age 14 months also indicate that maternal depressive symptomatology is associated with an increased risk of developmental delay ( 36 ). The cognitive development of 6-to 8-week-old infants ( 37 ) and the cognitive, language, and motor development of 4- and 13-month-olds ( 38 ) with depressed mothers is also lower when measured with the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development.

Children of depressed mothers are six times more likely to be at risk for delayed emotional development ( 39 ) and five times more likely to be at risk for delayed language development with negative impact also on cognitive development at 6 months and 12 months and on motor development at 12 months and 18 months ( 39 ).

  • Longitudinal studies indicate that maternal perinatal depression is associated with alterations in executive functions such as inhibition, shifting ability, cognitive flexibility, and working memory ( 12, 19, 20 ), but also with decreased thickness of the right frontal cortex ( 40, 41 ).
  • In a study by Park et al.

( 42 ), the neurodevelopment outcomes of children of women with partially improved depressive symptoms in the first 3 years after delivery were comparable to those of children of mothers who consistently reported low levels of depressive symptomatology.

  1. In contrast, in women who continued to have more severe and longer-lasting depressive symptoms, children had greater neurocognitive impairments.
  2. This would suggest that an improvement in the mothers’ symptomatology in the first 3 years would reduce, or even reverse, the impact of maternal psychopathology on the children.

Moreover, Faleschini et al. ( 43 ) found that exposure to prenatal maternal depressive symptoms predicts in children poorer executive functions related to planning, organization, working memory, inhibition of inappropriate impulses, emotional control, and ability to reevaluate and modify responses.

  • At the same time, the authors, after accounting for influential factors including depressive symptoms in the prenatal period, identified poor associations between maternal depressive symptoms at six and 12 months postpartum and development in middle childhood.
  • A recent meta-analysis ( 20 ) found no significant differences in neurocognitive developmental outcomes between prenatal and postpartum exposure to maternal depression, highlighting the need for further studies measuring depression over a longer time frame and emphasizing the importance of assessing chronicity of depressive symptomatology.

Ibanez et al. ( 44 ) found that prenatal maternal depression is not associated with child development except when prenatal maternal anxiety is also present, while postpartum maternal depression would appear to play a mediating role in the relationship between prenatal maternal anxiety and children’s cognitive development.

  • Evaluations conducted on the outcomes of prenatal, postpartum depression and their combination suggest that only prenatal depression is a significant predictor of cognitive development in children ( 45 ), thus the impact of prenatal depression cannot be explained by postpartum depressive symptoms.
  • Indeed, in a very large study of 3,379 mother-infant pairs, prenatal maternal depression was associated with less optimal early neurodevelopment of the child, including social–emotional, cognitive, and motor skills in the first 2 years, which were not observed for postpartum depression ( 46 ).

Also, in low-and middle-income countries has been shown up a direct association between prenatal depression and child cognitive development to the second and third years, even independent of the presence of postpartum depression ( 19 ). In a study by Urizar ( 47 ) maternal depression was assessed during pregnancy and 6 months after delivery, while infant development was assessed up to 5 years after delivery.

The results showed that maternal depression experienced during pregnancy was associated with less cognitive development of the child. However, both the onset in pregnancy and early postpartum and the severity and chronicity of depression were associated with lower social–emotional development. Although few studies have examined the effects of severity and chronicity of maternal depressive symptoms beyond the perinatal period on child outcomes, research shows that depressive symptoms can persist long after birth ( 8 ), meaning many children in early childhood are exposed to maternal depression.

As early as 2000, a study by Brennan et al. ( 48 ) suggested that the interaction between the severity and chronicity of maternal depressive symptoms are related to more behavioral problems and worse language performance in children, concluding that greater severity of depressive symptoms is likely to be accompanied by worse infant developmental outcomes.

Interestingly, one study has explored and identified three developmental trajectories of maternal depressive symptoms from pregnancy to 4 years after delivery ( 49 ) describing them as follows: (1) no or few symptoms (61%), (2) persistent subclinical symptoms (30%) and (3) persistently elevated escalating symptoms (9%).

Specifically, the authors found that children of mothers with subclinical, escalating, and persistently elevated symptoms were at least twice as likely to experience emotional and relationship difficulties than the others, even after accounting for other risk factors.

What are the consequences of PPD?

Approximately 1 in every 7 women will get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression or anxiety. These illnesses are not normal, but they are very common. Seventy to 80 percent of new moms may feel depressed, anxious or even angry a few days after giving birth.

  1. These “baby blues,” as they are called, are normal and they usually go away within a week or so without treatment.
  2. For some women – more than 10 percent of mothers – postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious disease that can last a year after childbirth.
  3. It can interfere with a mother’s ability to take care of and bond with her baby, as well as harm the child’s development and safety.

In rare cases, new mothers have harmed themselves and/or their babies. For the good of the mother and her new baby, it is crucial to identify and treat PPD as quickly as possible.

Can PPD turn into psychosis?

Introduction – Childbirth is considered a major physical, emotional, and social stressor in a woman’s life. Following days to weeks after childbirth, most women experience some mental disturbance like mood swings and mild depression (also known as post-baby blues), but a few can also suffer from PTSD, major depression, or even full-blown psychosis.

  1. This change in maternal behavior and thought process is due to several bio-psycho-social factors.
  2. There are physical and hormonal changes, lack of sleep and exhaustion, and the beginning of a new role and commitment in caring for a newborn, which is both physically and emotionally challenging.
  3. Postpartum psychosis is the severest form of mental illness in that category characterized by extreme confusion, loss of touch with reality, paranoia, delusions, disorganized thought process, and hallucinations.

It affects around one to two per one thousand females of childbearing age and usually happens immediately within days to the first six weeks after birth. Although rare, it is considered a psychiatric emergency that warrants immediate medical and psychiatric attention and hospitalization if the risk of suicide or filicide exists.

Does motherhood rewire your brain?

‘Matrescence’ or how mothers’ brains change up to six years after giving birth We know that motherhood is a huge change, and not only at the personal, family and social levels. During pregnancy, the body adapts to different cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, renal and muscular changes.

  • But the brain also undergoes enormous modifications.
  • Multiple recent research studies have analyzed how,
  • Hormones bring about profound changes, triggering an increase in neuroplasticity.
  • This is a process similar to the one that occurs during adolescence; it is known as matrescence, a term coined by anthropologist Dana Raphael in the 1970s, and recently the concept has been gaining traction.

“Just as adolescence describes a child’s transition to adulthood, matrescence describes a woman’s transition to motherhood. Adolescence and matrescence are both periods coordinated by steroid hormones, and times of neuroplasticity and mental vulnerability.

  • In addition, both are moments of change and adaptation, although what each person experiences individually varies widely,” explains neuroscientist Magdalena Martínez García, who works with the neuroimaging groups at Neuromaternal (Madrid) and BeMother (Barcelona).
  • These organizations have conducted pioneering longitudinal studies of mothers’ brains during different periods, from pre-pregnancy through gestation to postpartum.

A 2019 study in which Martinez participated showed that the similarities between adolescence and matrescence also have a neurobiological basis. “We compared the brain changes in a group of first-time mothers and those in a group of adolescent girls. Surprisingly, both groups showed a virtually identical profile of change, suggesting that adolescence and matrescence involve similar neuroplasticity processes and steroid hormones are important mediators of these changes,” she says.

  1. According to Susanna Carmona Cabañete, a clinical psychologist, PhD in Neuroscience and the director of the Neuromaternal research group at the Gregorio Marañón Health Research Institute, a woman’s first pregnancy drastically alters her brain.
  2. The brain changes during this vital period are so pronounced that the scientific community currently considers pregnancy to be the stage of greatest brain plasticity in adult life,” she says.
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According to the expert, this is a period in which the brain is more malleable and adaptable to experience. Hormonal fluctuations and interactions with the baby are behind this enhanced malleability: “The former prepare the brain to become more plastic; the latter exert pressure to mold and adapt it to the demands of the new stage.” Carmona likens the process to pottery, encouraging us to think of the brain as a lump of clay just removed from the package, moist and extremely vulnerable to external events like us pressing and stretching it.

  • Over time that clay loses moisture as well as malleability, the ability to adapt.
  • The brain is fixed, the main structure of the sculpture is already formed, and only subtle changes can be made.
  • Until recently, it was believed that after adolescence, that clay was baked and remained fixed, subject only to the wear and tear of the passage of time.

Today, we know that this baking does not occur and that small changes in the brain’s anatomy and function will continue to occur until death,” she explains. In pregnancy, the maternal brain becomes malleable again to encourage adaptation to the enormous demands of a baby’s arrival.

  • These requirements often conflict with how many women experience moments like pregnancy, childbirth and, of course, the postpartum period.
  • The brain is constantly adapting to both our internal state and our environment.
  • And often what your body asks of you clashes with your socioeconomic situation, including your family situation and your working conditions.

Currently, we experience motherhood with a constant ambivalence between privilege and precariousness,” says Magdalena Martínez. The neuroscientist’s studies have found that mothers’ brains continue to change throughout the postpartum period and therefore remain vulnerable during that time and even several years later.

What is common among babies of depressed mothers?

Maternal Depression and its Relation to Children’s Development and Adjustment | Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development E. Mark Cummings, PhD, Chrystyna D. Kouros, PhD University of Notre Dame, USA, Vanderbilt University, USA October 2009 Introduction Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, especially common during women’s childbearing years.1,2 Maternal depression is related to child outcomes as early as birth and across later developmental periods.

  • Accordingly, maternal depression is a significant and relatively common risk factor during early childhood.
  • A pressing goal for research is to understand developmental trajectories and processes underlying relations between maternal depression and children’s development.
  • Subject Maternal depression is demonstrated to contribute to multiple early child developmental problems, including impaired cognitive, social and academic functioning.3-6 Children of depressed mothers are at least two to three times more likely to develop adjustment problems, including mood disorders.3 Even in infancy, children of depressed mothers are more fussy, less responsive to facial and vocal expressions, more inactive and have elevated stress hormones compared to infants of non-depressed mothers.7,8 Accordingly, the study of child development in the context of maternal depression is a great societal concern and has been a major research direction for early childhood developmental researchers for the past several decades.

Problems Whereas relations between maternal depression and children’s adjustment problems are well-documented, many questions remain about the mechanisms underlying these associations. These questions are at the heart of any possible clinical implications of research in this area, including prevention and treatment.

For example, how and why is maternal depression related to children’s development and adjustment? Why do some children of depressed mothers develop symptoms of psychopathology or impaired functioning, whereas others do not? There are many challenges for identifying and testing causal processes, such as ensuring sufficiently sophisticated models and research designs to guide study of multiple, and often interrelated, processes.

The challenge of ensuring adequate conceptualization, measurement and assessment also pose potential pitfalls and limitations, including the requirements for longitudinal research to optimally test causal hypotheses. Investigators have met these challenges by advancing multivariate risk models.

For example, Goodman and Gotlib posited several, inter-related, classes of mechanisms, including (a) heritability, (b) exposure to environmental stressors, including increased family dysfunction, (c) exposure to their mothers’ negative cognitions, behaviours, or affect, and (d) dysfunction of neuroregulatory mechanisms.9 Illustrating one of these pathways, depressed pregnant women may experience neuroendocrine abnormalities (e.g., increased stress hormones, reduced blood flow to the fetus) which may lead to dysfunction of neuroregulatory mechanisms among infants, increasing their vulnerability for depression or other disorders.

Research context In the context of studies of early child development, the study of disruption in family functioning as contributors to early child development outcomes has emerged as a focal area of investigation. Even when study is limited to family processes as influences, multivariate risk models find support.9-12 For example, Cummings and Davies 13 presented a framework for how multiple disruptions in child and family functioning and related contexts are supported as pertinent to associations between maternal depression and early child adjustment, including problematic parenting, marital conflict, children’s exposure to parental depression, and related difficulties in family processes.10,11 A particular focus of this family process model is identifying and distinguishing specific response processes in the child (e.g., emotional insecurity; specific emotional, cognitive, behavioral or physiological responses) that, over time, account for normal development or the development of psychopathology.10 Key Research Questions At this point, many key research questions need to be addressed by the study of longitudinal relations between maternal depression, hypothesized family and child response processes, and multiple child outcomes.

  • Tests may include investigations of explanatory process models or studies of trajectories or pathways of development.
  • Goals include identifying underlying family and child processes linking maternal depression and child development, how do these processes work together and change over time, child gender differences in effects, and the role of child characteristics.

Recent Research Results Parenting has long been the focus of research of family processes that may contribute to child outcomes. Studies have shown repeatedly that maternal depression is linked with less optimal parenting and less secure mother-child attachment.5,15,16 Depressed mothers are more likely to be inconsistent, lax, withdrawn or intrusive, and ineffective in their parenting and child discipline behaviour.

Inadequate parenting and lower quality parent-child relationships, in turn, are related to increased risk for maladjustment among children. Although marital conflict has long been linked with the effects of maternal depression, the study of this topic continues to be relatively neglected. At the same time, recent evidence continues to support that interparental conflict is a robust influence on child outcomes, even when compared to parenting in community samples.14 Extensive research documents links between marital conflict and child maladjustment in families with maternal depression.

In contexts of maternal depression, marital conflicts are characterized by lower positive verbal behaviour, sad affect, increased use of destructive conflict tactics, and lower likelihood of conflict resolution.17,18 Interparental conflict is a robust predictor of children’s functioning across multiple domains, including socio-emotional outcomes, cognitive functioning and academic success.19 Studies are explicitly testing family processes, including interparental conflict, as mediators or moderators between maternal depression and children’s outcomes.

The findings show that maternal depression is related to increased interparental conflict and relationship insecurity, more family-level conflict and overall family functioning. Disruptions in these family processes, in turn, are related to higher levels of children’s psychological distress and adjustment problems.20-24 The role of child characteristics in the association between maternal depression and children’s development is also under investigation, including children’s temperament and physiological responses to stress.5, 25 Research Gaps There are still many gaps that need to be addressed.

First, further study of the role of interparental conflict in the effects associated with maternal depression is needed, especially distinguishing between forms of conflict. For example, quite different effects on children have been linked to constructive, destructive and depressive interparental conflicts.26 Second, longitudinal research across different developmental periods is needed to understand the short-term and long-term consequences of maternal depression for family functioning and children’s development.

Third, it is important for studies to distinguish between clinical and subclinical levels of maternal depression.10 Similarly, the impact of the characteristics of maternal depression requires further investigation; depression is a heterogeneous disorder, and the timing, chronicity and number of episodes of maternal depression may influence relations between maternal depression and child adjustment.

Fourth, although research has focused on maternal depression, the effect of paternal depression deserves further consideration, including examining relations when both parents are depressed.5 Fifth, further study of child characteristics, such as temperament, sex, genetics and physiological regulation warrant consideration.

Lastly, research should aim for more specificity with regard to child outcomes. For example, why do some children develop impaired social competence in the context of maternal depression, whereas other children develop symptoms of depression? Conclusions Maternal depression is related to a wide range of child outcomes, and the effects continue from birth into adulthood.

Children of depressed mothers are two to three times more likely to develop a mood disorder, and are at increased risk for impaired functioning across multiple domains, including cognitive, social and academic functioning, and poor physical health. At the same time, many children of depressed mothers develop normally.

  • Therefore, the key research goal is to understand the pathways and processes through which maternal depression affects children.
  • Disruptions to family processes, including parenting problems and interparental conflict, are documented as pathways through which maternal depression affects children.
  • Evidence that family processes may account for links between maternal depression and child development is promising from a treatment and intervention standpoint, in that family processes can be more easily targeted and altered than other mediating processes (e.g., heritability).

Implications for parents, services and policy Policy-makers and clinicians should work together to make services, such as screenings for pregnant women and mothers, readily available.6 Programs aimed at reducing disruptions to family functioning are one avenue for decreasing children’s risk for psychopathology.

Parents, clinicians and policymakers should be sensitive to the fact that comprehensive programs are needed that not only treat mothers’ depression but also offer family-level services. For example, depressed mothers could be provided with parent education classes to teach them effective skills and best practices for child rearing and discipline.

Families with a depressed parent can partake in educational classes that teach constructive ways to handle conflict, that is, how to handle conflict in ways that promote problem-solving and conflict resolution. As more research on moderating factors is conducted, prevention and treatment efforts can be better targeted to those most at risk.

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Kessler RC. Epidemiology of women and depression. Journal of Affective Disorders 2003;74(1):5-13. Brown GW, Harris T. Social origins of depression: A study of psychiatric disorder in women. New York, NY: Free Press; 1978. Beardslee WR, Versage EM, Gladstone TRG. Children of affectively ill parents: A review of the past 10 years. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1998;37(11):1134-1141. Downey G., Coyne JC. Children of depressed parents: An integrative review. Psychological Bulletin 1990;108(1):50-76. Goodman SH. Depression in mothers. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 2007;3:107-135. Goodman SH, Tully EC. Depression in women who are mothers: An integrative model of risk for the development of psychopathology in their sons and daughters. In: Keyes CLM, Goodman SH, eds. Women and depression: A handbook for the social, behavioral, and biomedical sciences, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; 2006: 241-282. Cohn JF, Tronick EZ. Three-month-old infants’ reaction to simulated maternal depression. Child Development 1983;54(1):185-193. Field TM. Prenatal effects of maternal depression. In: Goodman SH, Gotlib IH, eds. Children of depressed parents: Mechanisms of risk and implications for treatment, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2002: 59-88. Goodman SH, Gotlib IH. Risk for psychopathology in the children of depressed mothers: A developmental model for understanding mechanisms of transmission. Psychological Review 1999;106(3):458-490. Cummings EM, DeArth-Pendley G, Du Rocher Schudlich TD, Smith DA. Parental depression and family functioning: Toward a process-oriented model of children’s adjustment. In: Beach SR, ed. Marital and family processes in Depression: A scientific foundation for clinical practice, Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2001: 89-110. Emery RE. Interparental conflict and the children of discord and divorce. Psychological Bulletin 1982;92(2):310-330. Hops H, Sherman L, Biglan A. Maternal depression, marital discord, and children’s behavior: A developmental perspective. In: Patterson GR, ed. Depression and aggression in family interaction, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum;1990: 185-208. Cummings EM, Davies PT. Maternal depression and child development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1994;35(1):73-112. Cummings EM, Keller PS, Davies PT. Towards a family process model of maternal and paternal depressive symptoms: Exploring multiple relations with child and family functioning. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2005;46(5): 479-489. Lovejoy MC, Graczyk PA, O’Hare E, Neuman G. Maternal depression and parenting behavior: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review 2000;20(5):561-592. McCary CA, McMahon RJ, Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. Mediators of the relation between maternal depressive symptoms and child internalizing and disruptive behavior disorders. Journal of Family Psychology 2003;17(4):545-556. Du Rocher Schudlich TD, Papp LM, Cummings EM. Relations of husbands’ and wives’ dysphoria to marital conflict resolution strategies. Journal of Family Psychology 2004;18(1):171-183. Gotlib IH, Whiffen VE. Depression and marital functioning: An examination of specificity and gender differences. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1989;98(1):23-30. Cummings EM, Davies PT. Effects of marital conflict on children: Recent advances and emerging themes in process-oriented research. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2002;43(1):31-63. Cummings EM, Schermerhorn AC, Keller PS, Davies PT. Parental depressive symptoms, children’s representations of family relationships, and child adjustment. Social Development 2008;17(2):278-305. Davies PT, Windle M. Gender-specific pathways between maternal depressive symptoms, family discord, and adolescent adjustment. Developmental Psychology 1997;33(4):657-668. Du Rocher Schudlich TD, Cummings EM. Parental dysphoria and children’s internalizing symptoms: Marital conflict styles as mediators of risk. Child Development 2003;74(6):1663-1681. Du Rocher Schudlich TD, Youngstrom EA, Calabrese JR, Findling RL. The role of family functioning in bipolar disorder in families. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 2008;36(6):849-863. Shelton KH, Harold GT. Interparental conflict, negative parenting, and children’s adjustment: Bridging links between parents’ depression and children’s psychological distress. Journal of Family Psychology 2008;22(5):712-724. Cummings EM, El-Sheikh M, Kouros CD, Keller PS. Children’s skin conductance reactivity as a mechanism of risk in the context of parental depressive symptoms. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2007;48(5):436-445. Cummings EM, Davies, PT. Marital conflict and children: An emotional security perspective, New York, NY: Guilford Press; 2010.

: Maternal Depression and its Relation to Children’s Development and Adjustment | Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development

How does PPD affect child development?

Effects of Maternal Depression on Children – Some of the research findings include:

Depression during pregnancy causes problems for the newborn such as inconsolability, sleep problems, decreased appetite, and less responsiveness with facial expressions. Babies with depressed mothers have a high incidence of excessive crying or colic. Mothers with PPD report infant sleep and crying problems more frequently than non-depressed mothers. Children whose fathers suffer with depression are about twice as likely to have behavioral problems in preschool. PPD in the mother is linked to poor cognitive test scores in children which can include learning to walk and talk later than other children the same age, learning difficulties, and problems in school. PPD in parents can lead to emotional problems later on for children such as increased anxiety, low self esteem, and less independence. Older children in the family may lose part of their childhood due to emotional detachment from the child as part of the PPD. In rare but serious cases, there are instances where a parent commits suicide due to PMD. Children whose parents commit suicide are at greater risk for suicide later in life.

Does PPD affect memory?

Women often expect that pregnancy and the birth of a baby automatically produces exhilaration and joy and believe that the childbearing years should be the happiest time in their lives. In truth, it is one of the most stressful and anxiety producing periods in the life cycle of a family.

  1. As many as 10% of women even experience unexpected depressed or anxious mood during their pregnancies and more than half of the women who give birth each year experience some negative change in their mental health in the early weeks following the birth.
  2. For 15% of those women, the period following childbirth becomes a nightmare as they experience sleeplessness, confusion, memory loss, and anxiety during the already stressful adjustment to motherhood.

New mothers are especially vulnerable to depression anytime within the first year postpartum. Along with the overwhelming demands of caring for an infant comes a loss of time with one’s spouse, the loss of adult friendships, and a loss of freedom and familiar routine.

Can postpartum affect your brain?

Counteract neurobiological changes by stimulating the brain – The physical changes a woman’s body endures through pregnancy are well known and widely studied. What is lesser discussed are the neurobiological changes that happen in her brain. When a woman is pregnant, the gray matter in her brain actually shrinks.

  1. Gray matter is the portion of the brain where processing and responding to social signals happens, so the fact that a postpartum mother often struggles with these issues makes sense.
  2. Although this may sound alarming, a study by researchers at Amsterdam University Medical Center showed that the decrease in gray matter isn’t detrimental and memory isn’t necessarily affected.

In fact, it is the brain evolving to better care for a new baby—like the heightened ability to detect dangerous situations or the urge to nest. Estrogen and progesterone levels are also at an all-time high during pregnancy. These hormone changes are presumed to contribute to brain fog.

  • And when those levels drop postpartum, this may contribute to the fog as well.
  • We attribute a lot to hormonal changes in pregnancy—nausea, headaches, irritability—but the symptoms are not all physical,” Dr.
  • Jones said.
  • While these neurobiological and hormonal changes are a completely normal occurrence, there are some things you can do to “exercise” your brain.

“Crossword puzzles, reading, certain card or board games—anything that stimulates the brain—will be great to increase cognitive ability,” Dr. Jones said. “Keep your brain thinking!”

How long does it take to mentally recover from childbirth?

How Long Does It Take to Recover From Postpartum Depression? – Postpartum depression can last from several months to a year or longer in some cases. A woman may feel overwhelmed with sadness and lose interest in activities she once enjoyed. She may be unable to care for herself and her child due to restlessness and fatigue.

  • After treatment, things slowly start to get better: moods become more stable, feelings of emptiness go away and energy levels increase over time.1 in 5 adults in the U.S.
  • Experiences mental illness each year.1 in 20 U.S.
  • Adults experiences serious mental illness each year.
  • At least 8.4 million people in the U.S.

provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue. Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care. The length of time for PPD recovery varies. For mild cases, some women recover in two weeks while others may take several months.

Can postpartum trigger mental illness?

Abstract – Postpartum period is demanding period characterized by overwhelming biological, physical, social, and emotional changes. It requires significant personal and interpersonal adaptation, especially in case of primigravida. Pregnant women and their families have lots of aspirations from the postpartum period, which is colored by the joyful arrival of a new baby.

  1. Unfortunately, women in the postpartum period can be vulnerable to a range of psychiatric disorders like postpartum blues, depression, and psychosis.
  2. Perinatal mental illness is largely under-diagnosed and can have far reaching ramifications for both the mother and the infant.
  3. Early screening, diagnosis, and management are very important and must be considered as mandatory part of postpartum care.

Keywords: Perinatal mental illness, postpartum blues, postpartum period, postpartum psychosis

Can PPD turn into bipolar?

If you have a history of postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, or a personal or family history of bipolar illness, you may be more at risk for developing symptoms of bipolar disorder in the postpartum period.

Are people with PPD delusional?

What is paranoid personality disorder (PPD)? – Paranoid personality disorder (PPD) is a mental health condition marked by a long-term pattern of distrust and suspicion of others without adequate reason to be suspicious (paranoia). People with PPD often believe that others are trying to demean, harm or threaten them.

Does PPD cause brain fog?

Struggle to think or concentrate – Postpartum depression can make your brain feel foggy. You may not be able to focus or find that you can’t make decisions. Having trouble thinking adds to the challenge of trying to make it through the day and caring for your baby when you struggle with postpartum depression.

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How do I get rid of PPD?

Talk about it – Avoid isolating yourself and keeping your feelings bottled up inside. Talk with your partner, a close friend, or a family member. If you don’t feel comfortable, consider joining a PPD support group. Your doctor may be able to point you to some local resources.

You can also join online groups, Talk therapy is another great option. It can give you an opportunity to sort out your thoughts and feelings with a trained mental health provider. You can work with your therapist to set goals and find ways to deal with the issues that are bothering you the most. Through talking about your PPD, you may find more positive ways to respond to daily situations and problems.

You may try interpersonal therapy alone or combine it with taking medications. Antidepressants are often used to treat PPD. Two main types your doctor may prescribe include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

If you’re breast-feeding, you can work with your doctor to weigh the benefits and risks of taking medications. SSRIs, such as sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil), are considered the safest choices for breast-feeding mothers but are still secreted in breast milk. Some doctors may also suggest estrogen.

After birth, your estrogen levels drop rapidly and may contribute to PPD. Your doctor may suggest wearing an estrogen patch on your skin to help boost the decreased level of this hormone in your body. Your doctor can also advise you on whether this treatment is safe while breast-feeding.

With treatment, PPD may go away within a six-month period. If you don’t get treatment or if you stop treatment too soon, the condition may relapse or turn into chronic depression. The first step is reaching out for help. Tell someone how you’re feeling. If you do start treatment, don’t stop until well after you feel better.

It’s important to maintain good communication with your doctor and to keep a close support network. Learn more: Do men experience postpartum depression? »

Who does PPD affect the most?

Epidemiology – Postpartum depression most commonly occurs within 6 weeks after childbirth. PPD occurs in about 6.5% to 20% of women. It occurs more commonly in adolescent females, mothers who deliver premature infants, and women living in urban areas. African American and Hispanic mothers reported the onset of symptoms within 2 weeks of delivery, unlike white mothers, who reported the onset of symptoms later, as one study reports.

What happens to a woman’s brain after birth?

New mothers showed evidence of neural remodeling up to two years after giving birth How Does Postpartum Depression Affect The Brain Credit: Getty Images

Growing a human being is no small feat—just ask any newly pregnant woman. Her hormones surge as her body undergoes a massive physical transformation, and the changes don’t end there. A study published Monday in Nature Neuroscience reveals that during pregnancy women undergo significant brain remodeling that persists for at least two years after birth. The study also offers preliminary evidence that this remodeling may play a role in helping women transition into motherhood. A research team at Autonomous University of Barcelona, led by neuroscientist Elseline Hoekzema of Leiden University, performed brain scans on first-time mothers before and after pregnancy and found significant gray matter changes in brain regions associated with social cognition and theory of mind—the same regions that were activated when women looked at photos of their infants. These changes, which were still present two years after birth, predicted women’s scores on a test of maternal attachment, and were so clear that a computer algorithm could use them to identify which women had been pregnant. One of the hallmarks of pregnancy is an enormous increase in sex steroid hormones such as progesterone and estrogen, which help a woman’s body prepare for carrying a child. There is only one other time when our bodies produce similarly large quantities of these hormones: puberty. Previous research has shown that during puberty these hormones cause dramatic structural and organizational changes in the brain. Throughout adolescence both boys and girls lose gray matter as the brain connections they don’t need are pruned, and their brains are sculpted into their adult form. Very little research has focused on anatomical brain changes during pregnancy, however. “Most women undergo pregnancy at some point in their lives,” Hoekzema says, “But we have no idea what happens in the brain.” Hoekzema and her colleagues performed detailed anatomical brain scans on a group of women who were trying to get pregnant for the first time. The 25 women who got pregnant were rescanned soon after they gave birth; 11 of them were scanned two years after that. (For comparison, the researchers also scanned men and women who were not trying to have a child as well as first-time fathers). During the postpartum period, the researchers also performed brain scans on the new mothers while they looked at photos of their infants. The scientists used a standard scale to rate the attachment between mother and infant. The researchers found that the new mothers experienced gray matter reductions that lasted for at least two years after birth. This loss, however, is not necessarily a bad thing (according to Hoekzema, “the localization was quite remarkable”); it occurred in brain regions involved in social cognition, particularly in the network dedicated to theory of mind, which helps us think about what is going on in someone else’s mind—regions that had the strongest response when mothers looked at photos of their infants. These brain changes could also be used to predict how mothers scored on the attachment scale. In fact, researchers were able to use a computer algorithm to identify which women were new mothers based solely on their patterns of gray matter loss. Gray matter loss was not seen in new fathers or nonparents. It is not entirely clear why women lose gray matter during pregnancy, but Hoekzema thinks it may be because their brains are becoming more specialized in ways that will help them adapt to motherhood and respond to the needs of their babies. The study offers some preliminary evidence to support this idea. Whereas the present study focuses primarily on documenting brain changes during pregnancy, she expects follow-up work to tackle more applied questions such as how brain changes relate to postpartum depression or attachment difficulties between mother and child. Ronald Dahl, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the work, says he had “a delightful ‘wow’ moment” on seeing the study. “This is a pioneering contribution that not only documents structural brain changes linked to pregnancy but also compellingly offers evidence that suggests these represent adaptive changes,” he wrote in an e-mail. Mel Rutherford, an evolutionary psychologist at McMaster University in Ontario, is also enthusiastic about the study—which, to his knowledge, is the first that uses neuroimaging to track brain changes during pregnancy. “Probably the most exciting thing is that they were able to follow up two years after the birth of the baby,” he says, “So they have the longest-term evidence that we’ve seen of changes in the brain after pregnancy.” The results mesh with Rutherford’s own research on cognitive changes during pregnancy, which he approaches from an evolutionary perspective. “As a parent, you’re now going to be solving slightly different adaptive problems, slightly different cognitive problems than you did before you had children,” he explains. “You have different priorities, you have different tasks you’re going to be doing, and so your brain changes.”

What parts of the brain does clinical depression affect?

Numerous studies that focused on gray and white matter have found significant brain region alterations in major depressive disorder patients, such as in the frontal lobe, hippocampus, temporal lobe, thalamus, striatum, and amygdala.

How long does postpartum brain fog last?

Is Mom Brain real? Understanding and coping with postpartum brain fog You’ve likely heard of Mom Brain or “momnesia.” Sometimes it can be funny, like accidentally putting the milk in the pantry and the cereal in the fridge. Sometimes it can be frustrating, like forgetting a word or where you parked.

And other times it can be downright unsettling, like feeling incompetent, inadequate and as if you’ll never rebound. The good news is that while the symptoms of Mom Brain—memory loss, brain fog and lack of concentration—are an annoying obstacle to everyday life, it is not typically a concern. Kristina Jones, MD, OBGYN on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center and mom of three, says that “while it’s a well-known term, it’s not a medically official diagnosis.” But that doesn’t mean it’s not wildly common.

Dr. Jones estimates that between 50% to 80% of postpartum patients experience Mom Brain. She said most experts agree that it typically lasts two to four months postpartum but as a mother herself is skeptical of that timeframe. “Environmental factors play a big role,” Dr.

  • Jones said.
  • A woman may be using her baseline cognitive functioning capacity from day to day.
  • Then you add in a child, so your multitasking demands immediately increase.
  • A woman may not only be coping with lack of sleep from the newborn schedule and physical changes of her body, but also stress from resuming work responsibilities, among other stressors.

As women shift priority to their child, it is easy to forgot to take care of themselves. For some women, the shift in concentration or memory is going to last longer than two months”. There are many factors that contribute to the Mom Brain phenomenon. Let’s dive into a few of those factors—and what you can do to combat them.

Does PPD affect memory?

Women often expect that pregnancy and the birth of a baby automatically produces exhilaration and joy and believe that the childbearing years should be the happiest time in their lives. In truth, it is one of the most stressful and anxiety producing periods in the life cycle of a family.

As many as 10% of women even experience unexpected depressed or anxious mood during their pregnancies and more than half of the women who give birth each year experience some negative change in their mental health in the early weeks following the birth. For 15% of those women, the period following childbirth becomes a nightmare as they experience sleeplessness, confusion, memory loss, and anxiety during the already stressful adjustment to motherhood.

New mothers are especially vulnerable to depression anytime within the first year postpartum. Along with the overwhelming demands of caring for an infant comes a loss of time with one’s spouse, the loss of adult friendships, and a loss of freedom and familiar routine.