Is there postpartum depression in animals?

According to a study conducted on Thursday, September 23, 2021 by OpinionWay for the Qare teleconsultation platform, postpartum depression is experienced by 30% of women and diagnosed in 5% of respondents. But what about the world of animals?

Can we talk about postpartum depression in the animal kingdom?

Spoiler: there is no single answer, but assumptions are on the table. “We can never answer definitively, but we can try to correlate changes or events that the woman has experienced with the fact that she will express maternal behavior or not. And moreover, we will have to create the connection between the expression of this maternal behavior. . and the fact that it is associated with mental disorders, such as aggravated anxiety or general apathy “, assesses Raymond Nowak, research director at CNRS, a specialist in sheep behavior.

It is difficult to detect possible postpartum depression in animals due to the following reason: they have no verbal expression. “There are behavioral abnormalities, especially in inexperienced women, but we can not deduce a mental state similar to depression. “, the specialist continues. However, there are parades to try to understand what the animals are feeling.

Elephant mothers do not slow down when giving birth to a baby

Postnatal depression, a difficult hypothesis to confirm in animals

The researcher is based on the following postulate:We know that expression of the mother’s behavior is associated with profound neurohormonal changes, and these neurohormonal changes will be responsible for this caring behavior. “ In other words, we must therefore determine what is the connection between these neurohormonal changes and the fact that a woman will express her behavior in a correct or incorrect way.

In domestic animals, behavioral disorders can be felt in the mother. This happens in the form of lack of interest in the baby or refusal to breastfeed – especially in ruminants. These urges are noticed more frequently in the female giving birth to her first child. “Although this is very rare, it is possible to observe infanticide behavior in rabbits, sows or bitches that may encourage the mother to devour their young., says Raymond Nowak. The history of the dog is also of great importance as it can affect the quality of the leash attached to the baby.

In addition, the rejection of one’s offspring in animals may be due to childhood disorders. “The parallel with man can be realized, and postpartum depression could be more frequent in a mother who herself was in a family where the mother-child dyad was dysfunctional.presents Cécile Garcia, primatologist, researcher at CNRS.

Hippocampus, an excellent father

“Social isolation is part of a depressive state”

In non-human primates, as in other social animals, the idea that they can endure postpartum depression is not inconsistent: “there there are probably also risk factors in primates, “ she points out. At present, no study of the natural environment has been made on this aspect. It is possible to make hypotheses by following the animal before and during pregnancy to see if the individual is chronic in a depressed state. “In some women, there may be neglect or, conversely, an obsession with maternity care, but it is difficult to attribute this behavior to the term postpartum depression., the specialist gently states. Like the baboon, a species in which Cécile Garcia was able to observe primiparous females neglecting their young.

Regarding depression, it can manifest itself in various signs, but once again it is difficult to highlight postpartum depression in non-human primates without a long-term follow-up (ie several weeks before and several weeks after farrowing). “In case of discomfort, a female will groom or scratch more often. Social isolation is part of being depressed. “

Finally, the role of the man may be criteria to be considered. “In most non-human primates, paternal care is poorly developed. But it is possible that the presence of ‘helpers’ dampens the phenomenon of postpartum depression “, ends Cécile Garcia. In tamarins, the male is present to care for the young.

Also read:

Animals: these caring fathers who raise their little ones

Animals: these caring fathers who raise their little ones

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