How postpartum depression can affect the immune system


  • After childbirth, many women experience uncontrolled sadness or crying that goes away quickly, this is known as the baby blues.
  • It is to be distinguished from postpartum depression, which requires prompt and appropriate maternal treatment.

According to a report by the First 1,000 Days Commission, 10-15% of young mothers in France suffer from postpartum depression published in September 2020. The postpartum period lasts from birth to about six weeks after, and at this time some women may suffer from depression, postpartum depression. Symptoms are usually severe fatigue, difficulty dealing with stress, uncontrollable crying, irritability, self-deprecation, inability to appreciate parenthood, dark thoughts, etc. These signals should alarm as this disease can have serious consequences. Indeed, such a report the confidential national survey of maternal mortality (Encmm) for the period 2013-2015, Suicide is the second leading cause of death among mothers in France.

A disease that is still little known at the biological level

We didn’t understand postpartum depression” assures Jerry Guintivano, one of the authors of a study on the biological mechanisms of this disease, just published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Much of biological research focuses on genes and hormones, we’re advanced (on a scientific level) to certain medications specific to postpartum depression, but it is important to expand the therapeutic avenues to treat them because not all manifestations of postpartum depression are created equal“.

The importance of B cells

To better understand the biological mechanisms of this disease, the authors analyzed blood samples from 1,500 women, 482 of whom suffered from postpartum depression. They also looked at these women’s RNA and DNA, two factors never considered in previous studies. So what they found was the difference between women with postpartum depression and those without the B cells. white blood cells, which play an important role in the immune system. They help the body defend itself against attacks of infection by producing antibodies.

Hormonal changes in the immune system

The immune system plays a very important and delicate role during pregnancyexplains Jerry Guintivano, one of the authors. It must prevent contraction of a cold, but also fine-tune it so as not to identify and attack the fetus as a foreign body. Then in the period after the birth all hormones are reset to the time before the pregnancy“. The woman’s immune system is therefore put to the test during pregnancy because it has to adapt, which involves major hormonal changes.

continue to research

According to the conclusions of the researchers, the B lymphocytes of depressed and healthy women in the postpartum period would therefore differ greatly from those of healthy patients. “This is really just the first step in a long line of research that needs to be done now.continues Jerry Guintivano. We still don’t know why B cells change. Do they reflect another change in the body caused by or causing postpartum depression? What is the reason for the change in B cells?“. The researchers hope to find answers to these questions in future studies.

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