BACKGROUND: Peripartum depression is a common cause of pregnancy- and postpartum-related morbidity. The production of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the placenta alters the profile of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis hormones and may be associated with postpartum depression. The purpose of this study was to assess, in nondepressed pregnant women, the possible association between CRH levels in pregnancy and depressive symptoms postpartum.
METHODS: A questionnaire containing demographic data and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) was filled in gestational weeks 17 and 32, and 6 week postpartum. Blood samples were collected in week 17 for assessment of CRH. A logistic regression model was constructed, using postpartum EPDS score as the dependent variable and log-transformed CRH levels as the independent variable. Confounding factors were included in the model. Subanalyses after exclusion of study subjects with preterm birth, newborns small for gestational age (SGA), and women on corticosteroids were performed.
RESULTS: Five hundred thirty-five women without depressive symptoms during pregnancy were included. Logistic regression showed an association between high CRH levels in gestational week 17 and postpartum depressive symptoms, before and after controlling for several confounders (unadjusted OR = 1.11, 95% CI 1.01-1.22; adjusted OR = 1.13, 95% CI 1.02-1.26; per 0.1 unit increase in log CRH). Exclusion of women with preterm birth and newborns SGA as well as women who used inhalation corticosteroids during pregnancy did not alter the results.
CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests an association between high CRH levels in gestational week 17 and the development of postpartum depressive symptoms, among women without depressive symptoms during pregnancy.