THURSDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Women with postpartum depression have differences in brain functioning that may interfere not only with how they process their own emotions, but also with their ability to be responsive to the emotions of their infants, new research suggests.
In a small study that involved MRI brain scans, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center revealed that women with postpartum depression have reduced activity in parts of the brain that control emotional responses and recognize emotional cues in others.
"Our study provides a brain basis for what has been described in clinical settings and behavioral studies, which is that women with postpartum depression may have reduced activity in regions of the brain that process emotions and that are involved in being attuned to others' emotions," said study author Dr. Eydie L. Moses-Kolko, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. These brain abnormalities may help explain why mothers with postpartum depression often have problems bonding with their infants, she noted.
Postpartum depression, which affects an estimated 15 percent of new moms, is different than the typical "baby blues" that often occur after delivery, when a new mother may burst into tears at the drop of a hat, experts said.
While the baby blues usually go away within two weeks of giving birth, postpartum depression can continue for months and often causes such strong feelings of sadness, anxiety or despair that a woman has trouble coping with her daily tasks. Previous research has shown that maternal depression can negatively affect an infant's mental and physical development.
Moses-Kolko and her colleagues studied 14 depressed and 16 healthy mothers, all of whom delivered a healthy term infant in the preceding 12 weeks, were medication-free and had previously given birt
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