liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Possible Endocrine Etiology of Postpartum Depression

The new study last week revealed that naive young women become more wary given a dose of testosterone, whereas already-wary women were not affected. Prior to that I'd learned that women who've just given birth experience a major increase in their testosterone levels, whereas men who are coupled with women who've given birth experience a decrease. Also, women who've just given birth experience a dramatic decrease in estrogen levels, which causes an increase in the activity of monoamine oxidase, which decreases their serotonin levels, predisposing them to postpartum depression. Then last night I was reading a (terribly written) book on menstrual cessation, and the author spoke of testosterone and estrogen as our "natural antidepressants" because they reduce the activity of MAOxidase. Testosterone also reduces the activity of MAO? Really? I don't trust this author much, but IF this is true, then it would mean that postpartum depression could be caused not so much by the decrease in estrogen levels which occurs when the placenta is lost, but rather, this depression could be caused by the failure of the new mother to generate an adequate INCREASE IN TESTOSTERONE. New mamas need to have some fight in them. So my questions are:

Is testosterone a monoamine oxidase inhibitor?

If it is, could it make sense to support testosterone production in new mothers,
or possibly even to supplement it?

How do you support testosterone activity in the female? Give DHEA? Inhibit aromatase? ???

If I were to go into research, it would be in the area of hormones. No doubt. So many questions.

A lab I just ran across that might be an interesting resource once practicing and working with hormones:::::

EDIT 6/6/10: A news piece in the 6/4/10 issue of The Week says that new fathers also suffer from postpartum depression, at about the same rate as women. Psychologists at the Eastern Virginia Medical School reviewed 43 studies on depression in parents in the first year after a birth, in the US and other developed countries. They found that 14% of American men exhibited signs of postpartum depression, and 25% became depressed 3-6 months after childbirth. The article attributes the "baby blues" to stress, new responsibilities, sleep deprivation, and a decline in sexual intimacy. A UC Berkeley researcher and psychotherapist named Will Courtenay suggested that the new cultural expectation that men be involved in early parenting causes uncertainty, anxiety and depression, because men have no model in their lives for the expected fathering behavior. All of these are probably true, but I can't help but to wonder if the decrease in testosterone that has been measured in men postpartum has the same effect as the reduction of estrogen in women, that is, the lowering of natural MAO levels and reduction of serotonin.
Tags: childbirth, depression, dhea, estrogen, hormones, parenting, serotonin, testosterone

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