Three decades of research point to both biological and psychological risk factors for postpartum depression, but very little research integrates the two. This study bridged this gap by testing whether prenatal social support predicted depressive symptoms at 8 weeks postpartum in a multiethnic sample of 210 women and whether the stress hormone placental corticotropinreleasing hormone (pCRH), measured at 19, 29, and 37 weeks’ gestation, mediated this relationship. We found that prenatal family support predicted significantly fewer depressive symptoms postpartum and more gradual increases in pCRH from 29 to 37 weeks’ gestation. Furthermore, steeper increases in pCRH during this same period predicted more depressive symptoms postpartum. Finally, these changes in pCRH in late pregnancy mediated the relationship between prenatal family support and postpartum depressive symptoms. These results suggest that social and biological risk factors for postpartum depressive symptoms are intertwined and move us closer to an integrated biopsychosocial understanding of postpartum depression.
Hahn-Holbrook, J., Dunkel Schetter, C., Chander, A., & Hobel, C. (2013). Placental corticotropin-releasing hormone mediates the association between prenatal social support and postpartum depression. Clinical Psychological Science, 1, 253-265.