Cortisol Levels in Women’s Hair May Predict Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression in women may be predicted by cortisol levels found in their hair.Researchers from the University of Granada believe cortisol levels found in the hair of women (in their first or third trimesters of pregnancy) could predict postpartum depression.

Postpartum Depression can be debilitating, and often not even knowing whether one has it or not is scary enough. Now researchers from the University of Granada have found that the cortisol levels in a woman’s hair during her first or third trimester may give an indication as to whether or not she’ll suffer from postpartum depression.

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The researchers belong to the Brain, Mind and Behavior Research Center, as well as the Psychology department, and their work was published in the PLoS ONE journal. They looked at 44 women throughout their entire gestation periods and postpartum, and found that hair cortisol levels in the women who developed postpartum depression were higher in their pregnancies than those in the women who did not develop it.

Cortisol is a steroid secreted by one’s body as a response to stress. Other than taking hair samples, the researchers also monitored women’s stress and psychopathological symptoms as well. They looked at the mothers’ emotional states after labor to assess whether postpartum depression had developed, and in whom. They found that the women who had developed pospartum also had shown greater levels of anxiety in their first trimester. During their second trimesters, they were more anxious and tended to have more obsessive-compulsive behaivors, and during their third trimesters, tended to have higher anxiety due to pregnancy-specific stress.

The researchers believe those risk factors, coupled with cortisol levels, would be excellent indicators of possible postpartum in women after they give birth.

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Maria Isabel Peralta Ramirez led the research project and says this could mean a significant reduction in women who develop postpartum depression. If we can detect differences and anticipate postpartum, this could be tremendous for mother and baby alike.


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