Mood changes, obstetric experience and alterations in plasma cortisol, beta-endorphin and corticotrophin releasing hormone during pregnancy and the puerperium.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of psychosomatic research, 1990, 34 (1), pp. 53 - 69
Issue Date:
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The relationships between mood change, obstetric experience and alterations in plasma cortisol, beta-endorphin (beta-EP) and corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) were examined in a prospective study of 97 primiparous Australian women. Psychological measures were administered between the 28th week of pregnancy and the 3rd postnatal month, including the Profile of Mood States (POMS) and the Montgomery Asberg Depressive Rating Scale (MADRS). Blood samples were collected for cortisol, beta-EP and CRH assay on most of these occasions and during labour. Factor analysis was used to identify key subsets of psychological variables for use in the subsequent analyses. 'Mood disturbance' and 'tiredness' factors peaked at 38 weeks' gestation, while 'difficulty falling asleep' was greatest around the time of birth. Cortisol, beta-EP and CRH concentrations rose significantly as pregnancy advanced and peaked at birth; plasma CRH correlated with plasma cortisol (r = 0.54) and beta-EP (r = 0.32). Women with the highest 'mood disturbance' and MADRS depression scores at 28 weeks' gestation received significantly more pain relief during labour. Those women whose mood deteriorated from 38 weeks' gestation to postnatal day 2 had larger falls in plasma beta-EP after delivery (p less than 0.01) than those women whose mood improved or remained constant. Women in this mood-deteriorated subgroup also had significantly higher MADRS depression scores at 3 months (p less than 0.01). Mild antenatal depression (MADRS greater than 13) occurred in 5.2% of women and mild postnatal depression in 4.7%. Overall, these data suggest a role for circulating CRH in the regulation of maternal cortisol secretion and significant relationships between maternal postnatal mood states and beta-EP and between antenatal mood states and obstetric events.
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