Postnatal depression (PND) could be prevented by boosting levels of a natural body chemical called oxytocin. Scientists in Switzerland have found that those suffering from PND have lower levels of this chemical during late pregnancy and after birth. Sometimes known as the “cuddle chemical”, oxytocin is released by our brains during moments of affection or social bonding.
PND is thought to affect up to 25% of new mums and can make it difficult for you to bond with your baby. This study suggests a test could be possible to predict those most vulnerable to PND and that their oxytocin levels could be boosted artificially. But the researchers called for more investigation.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to show an association between oxytocin concentration and symptoms of postnatal depression in humans,” they said in the report. “Enhancing oxytocin release during pregnancy could serve as a potential target in prevention, and help to minimise adverse effects of postnatal depression on the mother-child relationship.”
Celebrities such as Danielle Lloyd, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Katie Price have all spoken out about their difficulties with postnatal depression and urged new mums to seek help if they feel depressed.