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Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jun 30;34(5):766-76. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2009.09.006. Epub 2009 Sep 12.

Depression during pregnancy and postpartum: contribution of stress and ovarian hormones.

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Department of Psychology and Brain Research Center, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4.


Depression is the most common psychiatric disease among women, exhibiting a prevalence which is 2-3x higher than in men. The postpartum period is considered the time of greatest risk for women to develop major depression and postpartum depression affects approximately 15% of women. A dysregulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the most prominent endocrine change seen in depression and normalization of the HPA axis is a major target of recent therapies. Females exhibit different stress sensitivities than males which might contribute to their increased vulnerability for depression. Maternal stress or depression during pregnancy and/or postpartum is particularly concerning as early developmental influences can affect the maturation of the offspring as well as the mental health of the mother. Despite the urgent need for more information on depression in females, especially during pregnancy and postpartum, most animal models of depression have utilized only males. Given the sex differences in incidence of depression and treatment, it is vitally important to create or validate animal models of depression in females. This review will focus on the association between stress, glucocorticoids and depression in humans, with a special focus on depression in women during pregnancy and postpartum and on animal models of postpartum depression and the consequences for the offspring.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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