The Real Cause of Postpartum Depression

August 06, 2023

The REAL Cause of Post-Partum Depression

It was all over the news. CNN, and others, all announcing the discovery of a new drug to treat post-partum depression. Zuranolone has been approved by the FDA to be marketed under the name Zurzuvae. Zuranolone is a positive allosteric modulator of GABA-A receptors. GABA functions as the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter for the central nervous system. It slows down and inhibits neurotransmission. Here's the catch. It will cost around $ 34,000 for treatment for the some 400,000 women who have it each year. That's one in 7 women who have just delivered a baby.

With my curiosity regarding plasmalogens and brain diseases, I have to ask the question, "What is going on around birth that makes a woman so vulnerable to depression? Is there a core mechanism we can get to?" We know from basic biology that every indication is that the fetus gets nutrients first. Mom is just the passive entity that is donating all those good things to the developing fetus. Iron, folate, protein, etc etc...and plasmalogens to the newborn. We also know that a fetus has virtually no myelination of their brain until about the 37th-38th week. Then, it starts myelinating nerve fibers (axons) and that then activates neurons as they sense incipient nerve conduction. You can witness it for yourself. A newborn baby won't make eye contact at birth. It can't. Its neurons aren't myelinated yet. They aren't sending any messages. Brain speed, measured in a brand-new baby comes out at 2 meters/second. A mature adult human measures 100 meters a second. That's a fifty-fold increase in speed. Speed is dependent and the numbers of plasmalogen dominant (70%) layers of myelin. A newborn baby has the massive task of myelinating all of its neurons as fast as it can go. Where does it get all that myelin from?

Mothers' breast milk turns out to be the highest food source of myelin precursors from which the baby can then make myelin for itself, and get its brain up and running. Yup, mothers' milk is number one. Cow milk? Zip. Zero. Nadda. Formula, also a big zero. At the time of birth, a newborn needs plasmalogen precursors in abundance. Lots and lots.

Here's the rub. Humans can only make plasmalogens slowly. Everything has to be just perfect to make enough for Mom. What happens if she can't make enough? Well, you borrow from Peter to pay Paul...or from Alice to pay Alisha.

Do we have any proof of that? Well, yes, we do. Type in for yourself "Post Partum Depression, MRI scan brain, diffusion defects." You will find multiple articles that all say much of the same. There are measurably damaged tracts of white matter in the brains of post-partum mothers. White matter is myelin. Their myelin appears depleted. It's certainly damaged.

We know that white matter damage is what is going in in MS, ADHD, autism, migraine....and now we add post-partum depression? Would that make sense?

Of course, it makes sense. The hypothesis, (completely unproven yet) is that at birth there is a huge demand for brain development and growth that rests precisely on plasmalogen supply. The largest (and actually only) reservoir of plasmalogens is in membranes, most notably the brain. We also know that as a general rule, baby comes first and mom is just "chopped liver". That's how nature works. The ultimate value of passing on that DNA and next-generation gets priority. Mothers' breast milk has about 30 mg/kg of plasmalogen building blocks. Is the baby robbing mom's brain of plasmalogens? That is what has not been proven, but that is what those abnormal MRIs suggest. There certainly is observable damage that looks just like the damage in major depression. Can we supply plasmalogens back? Well, yes. They are easily supplemented.

We also know that children with the most breastfeeding don't get the horrible, dreaded RDCP until they stop breastfeeding, including if they are breastfed until age 5. We know ADHD/autism kids have the exact same white matter MRI defects as postpartum mothers. We also have compelling hints that they get better with plasmalogen supplementation.

That's what the product Prodome Glia is. It is mother's milk in a pill. It is the plasmalogen precursor, what's in women's breast milk, with an extra tweak to allow it to survive gut digestion and show up in the blood. It is exactly what's missing in those conditions with white matter changes. Now we see the MRI data showing it's there in postpartum depression too. 

Finally, we also know that kids with MRIs of their brains showing healthy, properly structured white matter tracts do better in school, and are more socialized and developmentally stable. We all need more plasmalogens. And Mom is the one left holding the bag. No wonder her brain is screaming for help. 

Do we need to wait for randomized, placebo-controlled trials to prove it? Well, yes. That will take 10 years. And guess how enthusiastic organized medicine will be to do it? (Hint, no profit at $ 300 total per mother). It will likely not happen soon. The ethics of trying it without an RCT revolve around whether there is any risk of harm. To that the reply is, "How dangerous is mother's breast milk?" No, there is no risk or possible harm.

www.What will Work for me? Prodrome Glia is just that, the building block for the white matter tracts. If I had postpartum depression, I would be taking it by the handful. And even more so if I was choosing to breastfeed. In fact, I'm predicting that 10 years from now, it will be given to every mother starting 3 months before delivery so that she never gets post-partum depression and her baby never gets autism/ADHD. Total cost per mother would be roughly $ 300 total, and then add in some other vitamins and fish oil. Way, way, way less than $ 34,000 for a drug that has to be given IV.

That, to me, is the real cause of postpartum depression: the cannibalizing of Mom's brain to start baby's brain just right. Baby thrives. Mom tanks. An artificial GABA stimulator doesn't get to the root cause.

References: Neuropsychopharmacology, CNN, Washington Post, Behavioral Neurology, JMRI, Human Brain Map,

Pop Quiz

1. What does zuranolone do? Answer: It is a novel neurotransmitter that is a novel modulator of the GABA receptor in the brain.

2. Its cost is? Answer: $ 34,000 per person, and we haven't added up the side effects that may show with wider use.

3. What are the effects seen in the brain on MRI with folks experiencing major depression? Answer: Diffusion defects of white matter tracts signifying plasmalogen loss and inflammation.

4. How does post-partum depression relate to major depression on MRI? Answer: Identical

5. How can one repair the damage of major depression/autism/ADHD? Answer: Plasmalogen supplementation is the emerging answer.