Do animals suffer from post natal depression?

19 July 2009



Are female humans are the only mammals that suffer from post-natal depression?


Kat - Well this is an interesting one. I've been doing a bit digging around and actually, there is some evidence that some animals can have post-natal depression.

The main animals that have been looked at are rats and mice, because they've mainly been used as laboratory models for humans and they do find that rats can show depressive symptoms, things like poor nursing, signs of stress and anxiety after birth and they were also quite useful.

You can also manipulate the hormone levels in rats to bring on post-natal depression-type symptoms, and there's some labs that are doing this and are trying to test interventions and ways to help reduce this, because it's definitely thought that changing hormone levels - increases in cortisol, drops in females sex hormones - help to bring on this kind of problem.

There are some interesting mouse models as well, particularly mice who have faults in their GABA receptors in their brains on their brain cells; their nerve cells are much more likely to show these kinds of depressive symptoms after birth.

A terrible experiment has been in done rats: they find that, if they take their puppies away for short lengths of time - well not like days - if they take their pups away, it does induce depression-like symptoms.

I can't find any evidence about larger animals but there are certainly some anecdotes out there about dogs and cats. Some of them showing post-natal depression types symptoms like not nursing properly and not really being themselves.

Chris - It's interesting because the same mechanisms that lead to another mother baby bonding in humans also work in animals don't they?

Kat - Absolutely.

Chris - There are big changes in hormones, which we know affect the moods of animals and in the way in which they engage or link or associate / bond with their offspring. So it's not so unlikely that the same hormones that trigger the mood changes in us to cause post-natal depression could also occur in another mammalian species.

Kat - Yes I would certainly expect it to be the case and certainly definitely in the lab rats and mice can show post-natal depression.


my cat gave birth to 3 beautiful kittens yesterday morning. she fed them but a few hours later she left them on their own; she doesn't sleep with them; she doesn't feed them; all she can do is to hide herself, and the kittens have been crying for the whole night...

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