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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 May;93(5):1946-51. doi: 10.1210/jc.2007-2535. Epub 2008 Feb 26.

Elevated midpregnancy corticotropin-releasing hormone is associated with prenatal, but not postpartum, maternal depression.

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  • 1Connors Center for Women's Health amnd Gender Biology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1620 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



Elevated hypothalamic CRH has been implicated in melancholic major depression in nonpregnant individuals, but the role of placental CRH in maternal prenatal and postpartum depression is largely unexplored.


The objective of the study was to examine the association of maternal midpregnancy plasma CRH levels with prenatal and postpartum depression.


The study included 800 participants in Project Viva, a pregnancy and childhood cohort.


CRH levels were analyzed from blood samples obtained at mean 27.9 wk gestation (+/- 1.3 sd; range 24.6-37.4 wk) and were normalized on the logarithmic scale. Depression was assessed with the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (range 0-30 points) in midpregnancy and at 6 months postpartum. We used logistic regression to estimate the odds of scoring 13 or more points on the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale as indicative of major or minor depression.


Seventy (8.8%) and 46 (7.5%) women had prenatal and postpartum depression symptoms, respectively. Mean log CRH was 4.93 (+/- 0.62 sd). After adjusting for confounders, an sd increase in log CRH was associated with nearly 50% higher odds of prenatal depression symptoms (odds ratio 1.48, 95% confidence interval 1.14-1.93). Higher CRH levels during pregnancy were unassociated with greater risk of postpartum depressive symptoms. In fact, there was a suggestion that prenatal CRH levels might be inversely associated with risk of postpartum depressive symptoms (odds ratio 0.82, 95% confidence interval 0.58-1.15).


Elevated placental CRH levels in midpregnancy are positively associated with risk of prenatal depression symptoms but not postpartum depression symptoms.

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