Scientists at the Research Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior (CIMCYC) of the University of Granada (UGR), and the UGR School of Psychology have shown that cortisol levels in hair (a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress) are higher in the first and third trimester of pregnancy in women who subsequently suffer postpartum depression. In addition, the experts noted that these women suffered psychopathological symptoms more frequently during the pregnancy.
To carry out this research, published in the journal Plos One, experts followed up 44 women throughout pregnancy and the postpartum. Each quarter, they conducted a series of tests assessing their stress and psychopathological symptoms, and took hair samples of the volunteers to measure cortisol levels.
Once passed the birthing process, researchers evaluated the following days the emotional state of mothers to detect which of them had developed depression.
Psychopathological symptoms in each quarter
The results showed also that women who develop postpartum depression showed more psychopathological symptoms in the first trimester of pregnancy. Similarly, in the second quarter they showed higher levels of somatization, obsession compulsion, depression and anxiety, and in the third quarter showed higher levels of specific stress of pregnancy and somatization. All these symptoms together with higher cortisol levels would, therefore, indicate a future postpartum depression.
As explained lead researcher of this project, Maria Isabel Peralta Ramirez, these findings have important implications for prevention of postpartum depression, “because they show that ocurred throughout pregnancy and there are different psychological and hormonal variables altered in comparison to women who do not present the subsequent depression. Detect these differences is key to preventing psychological state of the mother and the consequences of this state in the baby.”