Predicting Postpartum Depression Risk

Levels of a hormone may help moms-to-be and their care providers predict the chances she will develop postpartum depression before her baby is even born.

Sad depressed woman

Researchers have discovered that levels of a certain hormone released by the placenta may show a connection to Mom’s chances of developing postpartum depression. Measuring the hormone, called placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH), may one day help identify women most at risk and allow for care providers to intervene early.

Placenta clues

The levels of pCRH in a pregnant woman’s blood generally rise sharply before labor begins and is thought to play a part in the timing of delivery. Researchers in California measured the levels of pCRH in the blood of around 170 pregnant women at 15, 19, 25, 31 and 36 weeks. They then followed up with the moms at 3 and 6 months postpartum to assess for depression. They discovered that women with the highest amounts of pCRH at 25 weeks were found to have the highest rates of postpartum depression.

"Women who show high levels of this hormone prenatally are at increased risk," said study co-author Laura Glynn, a psychologist at Chapman University in California.

Postpartum depression

The baby blues are common after you have a baby -- your hormones are going wild and boo-hooing at the littlest thing is totally normal. Postpartum depression, however, is more intense. It can usually be identified by a number of symptoms, such as loss of appetite, intense irritability or anger, severe mood swings, inability to bond with your baby or withdrawal from family and friends.

Experts recommend contacting your doctor if symptoms don’t fade in two or so weeks, are getting worse, make it hard to care for yourself or your baby or include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

This hormone and how it relates to the mom’s chances of postpartum depression merits more study, but if there comes a time where chances of developing this type of depression can be detected before birth, it will really help moms, especially those who may not seek help or are afraid to.

More on your postpartum health

Postpartum changes and your body
Common questions about postpartum depression
Breaking the silence on prenatal depression

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