Elevated corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) during pregnancy and risk of postpartum depression (PPD)

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Jan;96(1):E40-7. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-0978. Epub 2010 Oct 13.


Context: Perinatal depression has a prevalence of 10% with devastating consequences for mother and baby. The prospective identification of those at risk for postpartum (PPD) or prenatal (PND) depression has led to biomarker searches in pregnancy. There are conflicting reports of associations between midpregnancy placental CRH (pCRH) and PPD or PND.

Objective: The objective of the study was to quantify the association of maternal pCRH with PPD and PND.

Design: This was a prospective cohort study (the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition Study).

Setting: The study was conducted at a prenatal clinics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Patients: Patients included 1230 pregnant women.

Main outcome measures: The relationship between pCRH at less than 20 wk and 24-29 wk and maternal depression assessed in pregnancy [Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)] and postpartum (12 wk and 1 yr) with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).

Results: At 24-29 wk, 24.8% of women had CES-D score of 17 or greater, and 9.7% had a CES-D score of 25 or greater. At 12 wk postpartum, 18.2% of women had an EPDS score of 10 or greater and 7.6% had an EPDS score of 13 or greater. CRH measures at less than 20 wk and 24-29 wk were inversely correlated with a CES-D score at 24-29 wk (n = 1080, P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively). Pregnancy pCRH was not correlated with the EPDS score at 12 wk (n = 484) or 1 yr postpartum (n = 391). In covariate-adjusted models, higher pCRH was not associated with a CES-D of 17 or greater at 24-29 wk (odds ratio 0.88 per sd change in pCRH at 24-29 wk, 95% confidence interval 0.76-1.03). There was no association between log CRH at 24-29 wk and PPD (covariate-adjusted odds ratio per sd 0.99, 95% confidence interval 0.69-1.42).

Conclusion: Higher midpregnancy pCRH was not associated with an increased risk of PND or PPD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / blood*
  • Depression, Postpartum / blood*
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Linear Models
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk


  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone