Gestational Diabetes May Increase Risk of Postpartum Depression

Sep 5, 2018 at 2:24 p.m. ET
pregnant woman's abdomen
Image: Lauren Bates/Moment/Getty Images.

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to postpartum depression — how and why people get it and the best way to treat it all remain a mystery. However, a recent study — conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Helsinki, Kuopio University Hospital and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare — found there may be a link between gestational diabetes and PPD.

More: What to Know About Postpartum Depression & Anxiety 

In fact, gestational diabetes may increase a person's risk of postpartum depression.

The study used the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to assess depression symptoms during the third trimester and eight weeks after delivery according to a statement from the university. Researchers found that postpartum depression symptoms were observed in 16 percent of those diagnosed with gestational diabetes compared to only 9 percent of mothers without gestational diabetes — a small but noticeable increase.

According to doctoral student Aleksi Ruohomäki, the first author of the study, a number of factors could contribute to this increase: "Psychological mechanisms may partially explain the observed association between GDM and postpartum depression symptoms." What's more, "being diagnosed during pregnancy with a disease that might harm the fetus can be a stressful experience, which may predispose to depression symptoms," he added in the statement. 

But Dr. Soili Lehto, group leader of Kuopio Birth Cohort's mental well-being section, noted that physiological mechanisms may also be at play: "Impaired glucose metabolism may increase cytokine mediated low-grade inflammation, which has also been associated with depression. Previous studies have also shown that type 2 diabetes predisposes to depression, and depression to type 2 diabetes."

More: We May Finally Have a Drug to Treat Postpartum Depression

That said, it should be noted that not all people who have gestational diabetes will have postpartum depression and vice versa. This study simply highlights a potential link between two prenatal and perinatal conditions. However, this new information is an important step toward better understanding PPD.

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