Scholars of the Johns Hopkins Research Center have identified a hormone imbalance at the base of postpartum depression. The study involved a small group of women with a history of mood disorders behind. According to the analysis, hormone deficiency allopregnanolone in the second trimester of pregnancy is associated with increased risk of postpartum depression. The discovery could lead to development of specific tests to prevent the disorder.
Many previous studies had denied the correlation between postpartum depression and specific hormonal imbalances. They'd rather linked the phenomenon to a certain individual vulnerability, impossible to prevent with medical tests. The Johns Hopkins study focused on the most at-risk women, those with a diagnosis of past mood disorders.
The study involved 60 pregnant women between 18 and 45 years, backed diagnosis of major depression or bipolar disorder. Nearly 1 in 3 had been hospitalized for complications due to mood disorders. The 73% of them suffered from more than a mental illness. During the study, 76% of women was making use of psychotropic drugs, including antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Almost 75% have suffered from depression at one point of the study, both during pregnancy and shortly after.
During the second and third quarter, the participants made a mood test and provided a blood sample. The doctors have used blood samples to measure the levels of progesterone and allopregnanolone. The latter is a hormone secreted by the collapse of progesterone levels, it has a calming function. The analysis showed that there is no correlation between the levels of progesterone and postpartum depression. The researchers, however, found a connection between depression and lower levels of alloprenanolone in the second quarter.
According to the study, hormone levels early in pregnancy may indicate an increased risk of postpartum depression. In the future it could then study how to integrate the missing alloprenanolone and avoid the risk.