Understanding the role of inflammatory mechanisms in triggering perinatal depression

Understanding the role of inflammatory mechanisms in triggering perinatal depression

Perinatal depression (depression during pregnancy or the immediate postpartum period) is one of the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in nine women experience depression before, during or after pregnancy. However, these figures present only the tip of the iceberg.

Despite suffering from the challenges of perinatal depression, many women suffer in silence due to the fear of experiencing humiliation, stigma, etc. The symptoms of postpartum depression are more penetrating and long lasting compared to the general feeling of “baby blues,” a feeling of sadness, anxiety and fatigue experienced by women experience after giving birth to a baby.

A study has identified inflammation triggered by both physical and psychological stress as a key risk factor for perinatal depression. The researchers came out with an eye-opening finding that inflammation underlies all other factors of depression, particularly perinatal depression.  In fact, women during pregnancy are more vulnerable to depression due to the increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines during the last trimester of pregnancy.

The researchers identified that proinflammatory cytokines like interleukin-1β (IL-1β), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interferon-γ (IFNγ) were consistently elevated during depression. The increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines cause problems related to sleep, sexual activity, mood, socialization, appetite, energy, etc. Such changes are related to the increased risk of depression.

Other key studies

A meta-analysis, conducted by Yekta Dowlati and other researchers, claimed that the level of proinflammatory cytokines like IL-6 and TNF-α increases in depressed subjects. Another study done by Charles L. Raison and others also revealed that the levels of IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP) rise in peripheral circulation in depressive subjects while IL-1βand TNF-α are increased in both blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This suggests that depression is a behavioral byproduct of early adaptive advantages conferred by genes that promote inflammation.

In more recent research, scientists found a close association between inflammatory cytokines in the plasma and CSF and perinatal depression. During the investigation, plasma and CSF were collected pre-operatively and inflammatory cytokines were measured via flow cytometry. While there was a lack of a strong correlation between plasma and CSF inflammatory cytokines, the CSF levels of IL-1β, IL-23 and IL-33 were significantly associated with the increased odds of perinatal depression. The findings corroborate the role of the neuroinflammatory mechanism in surging perinatal depression. Moreover, the common experiences of new motherhood, such as sleep disturbance, postpartum pain, psychological stress and trauma also increase the risk of inflammation.

Seek treatment for depression

Having a baby is challenging and every parent deserves support. Despite the numerous deplorable statistics related to postpartum depression, it remains a highly treatable illness like other psychiatric disorders. It is possible for many women to successfully recovery from the challenges of perinatal depression. If you are experiencing emotional changes or think that you may be depressed, seek an appointment with your doctor to talk to about your condition as soon as possible. Most people get better with treatment, and getting help is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby.

If you or anybody in your family is suffering from depression, take immediate action. Your loved ones may need your support. You can contact the Texas Depression Treatment Help to know about the depression treatment centers in Texas that provide support to those dealing with depression, anxiety and related mental disorders. Our representatives can be reached anytime at the 24/7 helpline number 866-827-0282 to know more about depression treatment in Texas. Your one step could help someone begin his or her journey toward recovery.