Science Is Finding Remarkable Connections Between Mom And Baby

Pregnancy and the few months following are often a blurry haze for women undergoing hormonal and physical changes in their bodies.

We often hear of the “baby blues” in the first weeks after childbirth as hormone levels drop and our bodies adjust.

But new studies are showing that there may be other factors involved in the postpartum symptoms that are experienced by new moms.

Postpartum depression is very common, reportedly affecting approximately half-a-million women annually in the U.S. alone.

The number may be much higher, however, as little is still known about the cause and effect of postpartum changes, and many women are either afraid to address symptoms with their doctor or dismiss them as common and temporary.

That may be true in some cases, but now physicians and medical researchers are finding that true or extended postpartum depression – as well as the more severe postpartum psychosis – may have roots in our immune systems.

A part of our immune system called the peripheral immune system is weakened and suppressed during pregnancy.  This immune suppression helps protect the baby from being attacked by the mother’s immune system.

The peripheral immune system is separate from the immunity functions of the brain.  Because of this, the brain may lose immune protections during pregnancy.

This lack of immune response in the brain is thought to increase our risk for anxiety and depression after childbirth.

In a lab study using pregnant mice, inflammation was apparent in the areas of the brain responsible for regulating mood and energy.

And inflammation was even more obvious in mice who had been subjected to stress during pregnancy, allowing researchers to make a connection between stress during a woman’s pregnancy and an increase in postpartum depression.

“It was especially interesting that we found no evidence of increased inflammation in the blood, but we did find it in this area of the brain that is important for mood regulation. We’re really excited because this suggests that inflammation in the brain may be a potential contributor to postpartum depression,” said Kathryn Lenz, an author of the study, according to Science Daily.

Additionally, physicians and researchers have been studying the link between pregnancy and autoimmune disorders for decades.

Although pregnancy is the most natural process a woman can go through, our bodies still react in sometimes negative ways to growing another little human being.  (You know, like that awful morning sickness.)

Researchers have found that cells from our babies enter our bloodstreams during pregnancy and because the peripheral immune system is suppressed, immune disorders may be triggered.

The fascinating results of studies like these have also proven that the cells of our little ones enter our bloodstreams almost immediately after conception – and they can remain in our blood and bone marrow for decades!

This goes to show that mom and baby are intricately connected both physically and emotionally, and more research is being done on how fetal cells trigger the development of autoimmune disorders.

And because autoimmune disorders, especially more common ones like hypothyroidism, slow the body’s responses and affect immunity, they can come with symptoms like an increase in anxiety and depression.

Studies in recent years have also found that the way our bodies respond in the postpartum period can have a lasting effect on our little ones.

A Tufts University study found that research reveals that the nature of the maternal care received by an infant early in life can trigger immune and hormonal abnormalities that may impact the development of disorders associated with changes in the immune system, including depression and anxiety.”

The researchers in the study found that postpartum anxiety and depression, and the body’s immune response, can make an impact on risk factors for generations.

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While more research is needed in all of these studies on the link between our immune systems and postpartum disorders, one thing is clear.

We are linked in every way to our precious babies.  The emotional connection is obvious, but there are miraculous permanent physical connections between us after birth.

Doctors are hoping that research studies like these will help pinpoint exactly how to treat postpartum depression in women.

They hope to find specific treatments like dietary changes that may greatly improve the symptoms women experience after birth, offering more stability for both mom and baby.

Pregnancy and childbirth are an amazing gift from God, and one that changes us – heart, soul, and brain – forever.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you think of the findings of these medical studies linking a mother’s immune system to postpartum depression?  Do you know anyone who developed an autoimmune disorder following childbirth?  Leave us your thoughts.