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Endocrinology. 2018 Nov 1;159(11):3737-3746. doi: 10.1210/en.2018-00677.

The HPA Axis During the Perinatal Period: Implications for Perinatal Depression.

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Bloomlife, San Francisco, California.
Univ Rennes, Inserm, EHESP, Irset (Institut de Recherche en Santé, Environnement et Travail), UMR_S 1085, Rennes, France.


The transition to motherhood is characterized by some of the most pronounced endocrine changes a woman will experience in her lifetime. Unfortunately, matrescence is also a time in a woman's life when she is most susceptible to mental illness such as perinatal depression. A growing body of research has aimed to determine how key endocrine systems, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, are involved in the dysregulation of perinatal mental health. However, very little research has consistently linked perinatal changes in the HPA axis with maternal mental illness. Therefore, the aims of this mini review are to: (i) clearly summarize the normative changes in the HPA axis that occur during pregnancy and the postpartum period; (ii) summarize what we know about the HPA axis in perinatal depression, and (iii) propose key areas for future research. Understanding physiological biomarkers that can predict which women are at risk for perinatal mood disorders will lead to better tools for treating, and ultimately preventing, these debilitating disorders, improving the health of mother, child, and family.


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