What mother – whether a rat or human – wouldn’t be distressed by a strange male invading their space. Many people have been chased by veracious female elk during calving season. That behavior is not unusual and it is a maternal instinct that crosses many species. What is interesting is the learned behavior of a female’ s daughter. Her instinctual hormone response even if the threat of an intruder is not there. We have to realize that our postpartum depression and anxiety will affect our daughter’s and that this learned hormone response may go on for many generations without treatment. And of course, by now my faithful followers, know I do not mean drug therapy – but I mean nutrient therapy. Nutrition is the primary treatment – medication the supplement. This is my new mantra.
Postpartum Depression Spans Generations, Animal Study Suggests
Oct. 8, 2013
A recently published study suggests that exposure to social stress not only impairs a mother’s ability to care for her children but can also negatively impact her daughter’s ability to provide maternal care to future offspring.
Researchers at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University conducted a transgenerational study with female rats, examining the behavioral and physiological changes in mothers exposed to chronic social stress early in life as a model for postpartum depression and anxiety.
A different male rat was placed in the cage of the first-generation mothers and their newly born pups for an hour a day for 15 days. Consistent with previous research, the lactating mother rats responded to the stress of the intruder with depressed maternal care, impaired lactation, and increased anxiety. The pups of these mothers were also exposed to the conflict between their mothers and the male intruders.
After reaching maturation, second-generation females were mated and compared to a control group where neither the mother nor the pups had been exposed to a male intruder. The second generation mothers that experienced the early life stress also displayed depressed maternal care, impaired lactation, and increased anxiety. There were also changes to hormone levels: an increase in the stress hormone corticosterone, and decreases in oxytocin, prolactin (important to both maternal behavior and lactation) and estradiol.
“The endocrine and behavioral data are consistent with what has been reported in studies of depressed human mothers. The potential with this animal model is that it can be used to study new preventive measures and treatments for postpartum depression and anxiety, and the adverse effects of these disorders on offspring,” said Benjamin C. Nephew, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at TCSVM and principal investigator of the study.