Predicting The "Baby Blues"

02.04.09 Study links pregnancy hormone level to postpartum depression


Measuring the levels of a hormone in the placenta during pregnancy might predict whether a woman is likely to develop postpartum depression, ">Reuters reports.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found they could correctly identify the women who would later develop postpartum depression with a simple blood test. In the study of 100 women, 12 of the 16 women who experienced "baby blues" had high levels of a corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH, in the placenta mid-pregnancy.

The findings, published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, suggest that a pregnant woman's placenta can pump out 100 times more CRH than normal. The participating women who had high levels of CRH at 25 weeks into their pregnancy were more likely to suffer postpartum depression. The CRH levels crash after the mother gives birth, which researchers say puts the whole endocrine system "out of whack," causing a cascade of reactions.

The UC Irvine study suggests testing the CRH levels in pregnant women might become the standard of care, if the current findings hold up after additional examination.

Postpartum depression strikes 1 in 7 new mothers, generally arising four to six weeks after delivery. Feeling down after having a baby is common, and there are signs to help you assess your situation.

Remember, you have to take care of you, too! Having a happy and healthy baby means also babying yourself.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.