Postpartum depression is very real, but what really goes on inside the brain to contribute to this condition? Researchers are trying to figure this out, and rats may be providing some answers!

New research may explain why certain antidepressants are effective in treating postpartum depression. By working with laboratory rats that model postpartum depression, researchers found that the animals that experienced chronic stress during pregnancy were more likely to show depression after giving birth. They also found that certain areas of the brain involved in the reward system were affected in these animals. It makes sense- if things that are supposed to make you happy seem less rewarding, you are probably feeling depressed.

After giving these rats Citalopram, an antidepressant that is often prescribed to women with postpartum depression, researchers found that the abnormal brain structures returned to normal and that they weren’t showing symptoms of depression!

Hopefully, these rats will help researchers understand the specific brain changes that contribute to postpartum depression in humans. Read more about this research here.

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