Postpartum depression and role of serum trace elements

Iran J Psychiatry. 2010 Spring;5(2):40-6.


Postpartum depression (PPD) is a major depressive disorder that most often emerges within 6 to 12 weeks of delivery, but can happen any time up to 1 year after birth. In developed countries, the incidence of postnatal depression is about 10-15% in adult women depending upon the diagnostic criteria, timing of screening and screening instruments used. Mothers with depressive symptoms have been found to have more complex behavioral contacts with their children; this situation can damage family relationships, and even leads to infanticide. Various pathophysiologies are proposed for postpartum depression: Nutritional deficiencies, iron deficiency anemia, rapid decrease in the levels of reproductive hormones following delivery, alterations in hypothalamic-pituitary-adernocortical mechanism and alterations in neurotransmitter levels. Among pathophysiologies of postpartum depression, the role of trace elements is highlighted. The purpose of this review is to assess the role of trace elements including zinc, magnesium, iron and copper in PPD. Zinc as a trace element has the second highest concentration of all transition metals in the brain, and its deficiency is associated with behavioral disturbances. Lower zinc blood concentration was found in women with postpartum depression. Another trace element, magnesium, also influences the nervous system via its actions on the release and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Various studies have focused on antidepressant-like effects of magnesium and its deficiency has been reported in depression. Depletion of magnesium stores during pregnancy is hypothesized to be the cause of postpartum depression. Iron deficiency is the most common single nutrient deficiency in the world. There is an association between anemia and depressive disorders. Copper has been recognized as an essential element for many years. Iron also plays a vital role in neurological disorders and its levels are relevant to postpartum depression. Involvement of trace elements can be seen in pathophysiologies of PPD in different ways. Therefore, trace element supplementation can be an alternative treatment for patients with PPD.

Keywords: Copper; Iron; Magnesium; Postpartum depression; Trace element; Zinc.