Is postpartum depression present in animals?

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

Can we talk about postpartum depression in the animal world?

Spoiler: There is no definitive answer, but assumptions are on the table. “We can never answer definitively, but we can try to relate the changes or events experienced by the female, with the fact that it will express the mother’s behavior or not. Moreover, we will have to relate the expression of this maternal behavior with it being associated with psychological disorders such as exacerbated anxiety or general indifference,” estimates Raymond Nowak, director of research at the National Center for Scientific Research, who specializes in behavior in sheep.

It is difficult to detect possible postpartum depression in animals, for the following reasons: They have no verbal expression. “Behavioral abnormalities do exist, especially in inexperienced females, but we cannot infer a mental state resembling depression.”, continues specialist. However, there are rallies to try to understand what the animals are feeling.

Elephant mothers don’t slow down when a baby is born

Postpartum depression, a hypothesis that is difficult to confirm in animals

The researcher starts from the following assumption:We know that the expression of maternal behavior is associated with profound neurohormonal changes and that these neurohormonal changes will be responsible for these nurturing behaviors.” In other words, we must identify the relationship between these neurohormonal changes and the fact that the female will express her behavior in a correct or incorrect way.

In farm animals, the mother can feel behavioral disturbances. This takes the form of disinterest in the baby or refusal to breastfeed – especially in ruminants. These drifts are most frequently observed in a female who gives birth to her first child. “Although this is very rare, infanticide behavior can be observed in rabbits, pigs, or bitches, which may induce the mother to devour her young., says Raymond Nowak. The female history is also very important, as it can affect the quality of the bond that is formed with the child.

Moreover, rejection of one’s offspring from animals can result from the suffering experienced during childhood. “The resemblance to human being is discernible, and postpartum depression can be more frequent in the mother who was the same in a family where both the father and mother were dysfunctional.presents Cecil Garcia, primate scientist, researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research.

The hippocampus, an outstanding father

Social isolation is part of depression.

In nonhuman primates, as in other social animals, the idea that they can tolerate postnatal depression is not contradictory: “There is There may be risk factors in primates as well,” indicate. At the moment, no study has emerged in the natural environment on this aspect. It is possible to make hypotheses by following the animal before and during pregnancy to find out whether the individual is in a state of chronic depression. “In some women, there may be neglect or obsession with the mother’s care, but it is difficult to attribute these behaviors to the label postpartum depression., confirms cautiously specialist. Like the baboon, a species in which Cecil Garcia was able to observe virgin females who had neglected their young.

With regard to depression, it can be expressed by various signs, but again, postnatal depression is difficult to highlight in non-human primates without longitudinal follow-up (that is, several weeks before and after several weeks of anesthesia). “If uncomfortable, the female will groom or scratch frequently. Social isolation is part of feeling depressed.”

Finally, the male’s role may be a criterion to be considered. “In most non-human primates, paternal care is poorly developed. But it is possible that the presence of “helpers” alleviates the phenomenon of postpartum depression “, Cecil Garcia concluded. In the tamarin, the male is present to provide care for the young.

Read also:

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