What are the hormonal risk factors for postpartum depression?

Updated: Oct 11, 2019
  • Author: Saju Joy, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Christine Isaacs, MD  more...
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Although levels of estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol fall dramatically within 48 hours after delivery, [6, 14] women with postpartum depression do not differ significantly from nondepressed women with regard to levels of estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and cortisol or in the degree to which these hormone levels change. However, affected individuals may be abnormally sensitive to changes in the hormonal milieu and may develop depressive symptoms when treated with exogenous estrogen or progesterone. [14]

Metha et al demonstrated that women with postpartum depression express different transcripts associated with estrogen signaling in the third trimester of pregnancy compared with euthymic women. In fact, the presence of the identified transcripts predicted postpartum depression with 88% accuracy. This may be a way to identify at-risk women in the future. [15]

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