The Neurobiology of Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

Trends Neurosci. 2017 Feb;40(2):106-120. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2016.11.009. Epub 2017 Jan 24.


Ten to twenty percent of postpartum women experience anxiety or depressive disorders, which can have detrimental effects on the mother, child, and family. Little is known about the neural correlates of these affective disorders when they occur in mothers, but they do have unique neural profiles during the postpartum period compared with when they occur at other times in a woman's life. Given that the neural systems affected by postpartum anxiety and depression overlap and interact with the systems involved in maternal caregiving behaviors, mother-infant interactions are highly susceptible to disruption. Thus, there is an intricate interplay among maternal mental health, the mother-infant relationship, and the neurobiological mechanisms mediating them that needs to be the focus of future study.

Keywords: anxiety; maternal behavior; maternal brain; mothering; perinatal depression; postpartum depression.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology*
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*