Post-Partum Depression (PPD) is a condition that affects up to 25% of new mothers. Doctors have conducted studies to identify signs of PPD, but are still unsure what causes the condition or how it can be prevented. Researchers at the UCLA National Institute of Mental Health have found that women who have more emotional support throughout their pregnancies and birth are less likely to experience PPD.
"Now we have some clue as to how support might get under the skin in pregnancy, dampening down a mother’s stress hormone and thereby helping to reduce her risk for postpartum depression," says Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, lead author of the study.
The study included 210 women who were asked questions about the support that they received from their families, friends and partners throughout their pregnancies and shortly after giving birth. The research team also collected blood samples from each participant in order to determine the levels of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone or pCRH, within the blood. This hormone is known to increase stress in the body.
Hahn-Holbrook and her team discovered that women who received strong emotional support while pregnant were less likely to develop Post-Partum Depression. However, the study also suggests that support or lack thereof, from the baby’s father is unlikely to increase pCRH levels in the body.
Co-author Chris Dunkel Schetter believes that strong social support will encourage pregnant women to live healthier lifestyles, which will improve the baby’s health following the birth.