Mother-Infant Relationship | Gut-Brain​ Axis by Professor Anne Buist

Posted on: July 17, 2019
Last Updated: July 17, 2019

Prof Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. Anne has more than 30 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry and works with the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Her work has had direct implications for clinical care as well as assisting in advising government and health services to ensure good outcomes.

Author Quotes 

Someone in the audience asked, ‘can you go and get your Yakult, and will that fix everything?’ It’s not that simple, but the idea and certainly the suggestion was that maybe one of the directions in the future is to actually find a Yakult especially for your disorder.

I have seen studies that looked at oxytocin in trauma victims, and oxytocin didn’t seem to be as high in mothers when they were bonding; that does seem to be the marker of falling in love with your baby, and trauma victims seemed to have lower levels.

Treating a mothers depression alone won’t necessarily treat their infant and the infant relationship difficulties.

Summary and slides  

Professor Buist begins this segment by noting that microbiotas are different in women with perinatal depression, and those with a history of anxiety and depression. She suggests that future research may lead to specific probiotic combinations to treat mental health issues. 

She goes on to discuss mother-infant relationships and says that mothers treated for antenatal depression have the best outcomes, followed by those treated for postnatal depression. Those with anxiety and depression antenatally and postnatally have the worst outcomes. She describes lower levels of oxytocin in mothers who had experienced trauma and the negative impact of this on attachment. She notes that more needs to be done than simply treating the mother’s depression and that infants also need to be treated. 

She then describes ways in which depression in mothers may manifest, and the resulting attachment issues in infants. 

Professor Buist completes this segment by showing a video of a mother interacting with her baby and describes the potential impact of her behaviour on the child. 

Take-Home Points  

  • Women with perinatal depression have different microbiota. 
  • Trauma in mothers causes a reduction in oxytocin levels, which negatively affects mother-infant attachment. 
  • Treating mothers’ depression alone may not resolve all issues for the infant. 
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