Pregnancy Hormone Level May Predict Postpartum Depression

Placental corticotropin-releasing hormone could help identify pregnant women at risk

MONDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Placental corticotropin-releasing hormone levels during mid-pregnancy can be used to predict the risk of postpartum depression, according to the results of a study published in the February issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Ilona S. Yim, Ph.D., of the University of California-Irvine, and colleagues conducted a study of 100 pregnant women who provided blood samples at 15, 19, 25, 31 and 37 weeks' gestation, which were then tested for cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone and placental corticotropin-releasing hormone levels. After delivery the women were assessed for signs of postpartum depression.

In all, 16 women were diagnosed with postpartum depression, and their 25-week placental corticotropin-releasing hormone levels were strongly predictive of developing postpartum depressive symptoms, the researchers found. The other two hormones were not predictive of postpartum depression, the authors note.

"Our study has important clinical and theoretical implications. If our results are replicable, it may be considered useful to implement a placental corticotropin-releasing hormone postpartum depression screen into standard prenatal care," Yim and colleagues write. "Because blood draws to screen for gestational diabetes are typically performed at 24 to 28 weeks' gestational age, a potential postpartum depression screen could be completed at the same time."

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