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Br J Psychiatry. 1980 May;136:498-508.

Tryptophan, cortisol and puerperal mood.


Plasma cortisol, free and total tryptophan were determined in 71 subjects on 8 occasions between 36 weeks gestation and 6 weeks post-partum. Affect was measured by rating scales and clinical interview. Twenty-eight subjects were judged to have experienced post-partum 'blues'. Seasonal variation occurred in the incidence of 'blues' and in cortisol and free tryptophan levels. Puerperally-depressed mood was correlated with high cortisol at 38 weeks irrespective of season. Free tryptophan was reduced in 'blues' subjects but only at the time of year when free tryptophan was normally high. Total tryptophan was low antenatally; a rapid rise on days 1 and 2 post-partum was superimposed on a slower return to normal. This initial peak was clearly absent in 37 per cent of subjects. Its absence was significantly related to occurrence of post-partum 'blues' and of complaints of depression in the ensuing 6 months. This finding is discussed in relation to the possible occurrence of an occult disturbance of tryptophan handling in subjects susceptible to depression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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