Postpartum depression: changes to the gut microbiota under the spotlight
Researchers have recently shown that women suffering from postpartum depression exhibit partial differences in the composition of their gut flora compared to healthy controls.
Many new mothers experience the baby blues after giving birth. However, some mothers (and sometimes even their partners) may suffer from a much more severe and long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. The precise causes of this disorder often remain unknown and only certain risk factors, such as genetic and/or environmental factors, have been identified. A recent study published in a scientific journal suggests the gut microbiota may also be involved.
Altered gut flora
Numerous studies have shown that changes to the gut microbiota may influence certain depressive disorders. In particular, there appears to be a link between anxiety in late pregnancy and gut microbiota imbalance. In this new study involving around sixty women, the composition of the gut microbiota of mothers suffering from postpartum depression showed alterations with respect to that of healthy women. In addition, the severity of depressive symptoms correlated with the presence of certain bacterial species.
Sex hormones at heart of problem
This gut imbalance (dysbiosis) may be caused by abnormal secretions of sex hormones. While female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) have already been implicated in the development of postpartum depression, this new study shows that they may play an important role in disrupting the gut microbiota of affected patients.
A new diagnostic and treatment avenue
These results may help scholars further explore the underlying causes of postpartum depression. While the scientific theories proposed in the study remain tentative, the microbiota characteristics identified may prove to be valuable diagnostic biomarkers or provide significant clues for future treatments.
Zhou Y, Chen C, Yu H, et al. Fecal Microbiota Changes in Patients With Postpartum Depressive Disorder. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2020 Sep 29;10:567268. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.567268.