The neurobiology of postpartum depression

CNS Spectr. 2005 Oct;10(10):792-9, 805. doi: 10.1017/s1092852900010312.


Postpartum psychiatric changes can range from maternity blues to psychosis. Causality is still undetermined, but explanations for these disturbances often focus on hormonal changes and dysregulation. Researchers have begun the process of delineating what neurobiological factors may be associated with depressive disorders in pregnancy and the postpartum. This article reviews the current literature on the roles of gonadal and pituitary hormones in the psychopathophysiology of postpartum mood disorders. Other biological factors, such as biogenic amines, neuroactive steroids, cholesterol, and fatty acids, are also discussed. The potential benefits of neuroimaging to aid in understanding neuropsychiatric changes that occur in the context of postpartum depression are also considered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / physiopathology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / psychology
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Pituitary Hormones / physiology*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • Cholesterol