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J Neurosci Res. 2017 Jan 2;95(1-2):719-730. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23859.

Sex differences in depression during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.
Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology, and Medical Statistics, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece.


Women have a lifetime risk of major depression double that of men but only during their reproductive years. This sex difference has been attributed partially to activational effects of female sex steroids and also to the burdens of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Men, in contrast, have a reproductive period difficult to delineate, and research on the mental health of men has rarely considered the effects of fatherhood. However, the couple goes through a number of potentially stressing events during the reproductive period, and both mothers and fathers are at risk of developing peripartum depression. This Review discusses the literature on maternal and paternal depression and the endocrine changes that may predispose a person to depression at this stage of life, with specific focus on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, oxytocin, and testosterone levels in men. Important findings on sex differences in the neural correlates of maternal and paternal behavior have emerged, highlighting the relevance of the emotional brain in mothers and the sociocognitive brain in fathers and pointing toward the presence of a common parents' brain. Additionally, sex differences in neurogenesis and brain plasticity are described in relation to peripartum depression. © 2016 The Authors. Journal of Neuroscience Research Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


cortisol; neuroimaging; oxytocin; peripartum depression; sex; testosterone

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