The tablet and ‘child blues’: does experiencing melancholy with hormonal contraception predict postpartum melancholy?

Ladies have a better danger of growing melancholy than males, a distinction which begins in adolescence and lasts till menopause. The timing of the distinction between women and men suggests that there’s vulnerability to melancholy when ladies are of a child-bearing age. There are a number of psychological health-related situations, equivalent to premenstrual dysphoric dysfunction (PMDD) (Halbreich, 2003) and postpartum melancholy (PPD, coated by Psychological Elf right here) (O’Hara and Swain, 1996), that counsel that hormone fluctuations is perhaps a set off for depressive episodes. These hormone fluctuations could also be caused by the menstrual cycle, having a child or taking hormonal contraception (Skovlund et al., 2016).

Throughout the wider inhabitants of those that have main depressive dysfunction (MDD), hormone delicate ladies may make up a smaller subgroup who would profit from extra focused remedies. Nevertheless, what we don’t know is whether or not depressive episodes throughout a lady’s life share the identical organic foundation – in different phrases is melancholy associated to the menstrual cycle the identical or distinct from melancholy related to having had a child? Few research have investigated this and those who have are small in measurement and undergo from bias (Dennerstein et al., 1988), limiting our means to interpret their leads to a helpful approach.

Larsen et al. aimed to make use of Danish registry knowledge to analyze whether or not ladies with a historical past of melancholy related to utilizing hormonal contraception have been at a better danger of growing postpartum melancholy.

a pregnant woman in a white top cradles her baby bump

Postpartum melancholy happens in as much as 13% of latest mums and the hormonal modifications occurring round this time could also be partially accountable.


The research employed a cohort design, together with all ladies in Denmark after 1978 who gave beginning to their first baby between 1996 and 2017. Extra eligibility standards have been utilized, producing a gaggle of eligible ladies for evaluation. Utilizing statistical fashions adjusting for differing traits between publicity teams, historical past of hormonal contraception-associated melancholy and no historical past of any melancholy have been in comparison with historical past of another sort of melancholy (the exposures) to establish danger of postpartum melancholy (the result). A number of sensitivity analyses have been carried out to check the robustness of the findings to completely different situations.


Out of the 269,354 eligible ladies, the bulk had used hormonal contraception earlier than the beginning of their first baby. The research inhabitants included 188,648 first-time moms, the place 5,722 had skilled hormonal contraception-related melancholy (3.0% incidence fee within the inhabitants) and a couple of,457 developed postpartum melancholy (1.3%). Ladies with hormonal contraception-related melancholy skilled extra depressive episodes than ladies with different varieties of melancholy (63.4% vs 38.6% having a couple of episode).

Characteristically, these with each varieties of melancholy tended to be older and have a decrease instructional stage than these and not using a historical past of melancholy. That they had a better physique mass index (BMI) on common in comparison with these with out melancholy and have been extra more likely to have had a caesarean part. Lacking knowledge in BMI was much less prevalent amongst these with a historical past of both sort of melancholy in contrast with those that had no historical past of melancholy.

Ladies with a historical past of hormonal contraception-related melancholy had a 35% larger danger of postpartum melancholy than ladies who had skilled different varieties of melancholy within the adjusted fashions (odds ratio 1.35 95% confidence interval 1.17 to 1.56). The mannequin was adjusted for calendar yr, maternal age at supply, instructional stage at supply, household historical past of melancholy, marital standing, obstetric danger components like preterm beginning, different psychiatric problems, and medical indications for hormonal contraception like heavy durations.

The findings from the first evaluation have been strong in all sensitivity analyses. The impact weakened a little bit within the sensitivity evaluation the place publicity standing was restricted to the primary depressive episode, suggesting that the danger was extra like 19% larger for growing postpartum melancholy amongst these with a historical past of hormonal contraception-related melancholy.

Those that had no historical past of melancholy had an extremely low danger of growing postpartum melancholy with an odds ratio of 0.23, suggesting an excessive protecting impact of unlikely magnitude.

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Ladies with a historical past of hormonal contraception-related melancholy had a 35% larger danger of postpartum melancholy than ladies who had skilled different varieties of melancholy.


The current research helps the speculation that ladies who’ve been delicate to hormonal modifications up to now, such because the initiation of hormonal contraception, is perhaps at a better danger of each antenatal and postpartum melancholy. The paper contributes to the rising proof that depressive episodes is perhaps linked to hormonal modifications amongst a delicate sub-population of girls with historical past of melancholy. The mechanisms by which this may occur are nonetheless unclear. A current twin research factors in the direction of a genetic element and one other implicates hormones in serotonin signalling. These findings may assist in tailoring approaches for ladies with melancholy triggered by hormonal modifications.

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Ladies who’ve been delicate to hormonal modifications up to now is perhaps at a better danger of each antenatal and postpartum melancholy. This can be on account of a number of components, together with genetics or hormones concerned in serotonin signalling.

Strengths and limitations

This research has a number of strengths, specifically it’s measurement and timespan. It used a number of attribute knowledge to regulate the fashions accounting for potential confounding bias and registry knowledge was prospectively collected in reference to the publicity and outcomes.

There have been additionally some limitations. The primary is the intrinsic assumption that hormonal contraception will increase the chance of melancholy within the inhabitants, however this was not verifiable at a person stage, in different phrases, the authors didn’t know unequivocally {that a} depressive episode was brought on by the initiation of contraception for every affected person.

Additionally, these affected by a depressive episode who didn’t use antidepressants or get identified at a psychiatric clinic weren’t picked up and included within the evaluation. The magnitude of the protecting impact conferred by not having had melancholy earlier than is perhaps, partially, pushed by the truth that some persons are much less inclined to go to the physician to debate melancholy. If persons are much less more likely to report melancholy pre-pregnancy, they’re in all probability much less more likely to report postpartum melancholy. As talked about by the authors, those that didn’t begin antidepressants or get a prognosis in a psychiatric clinic would have been missed. It’s believable that there’s a substantial variety of these sufferers within the “no melancholy historical past” group, who’re in all probability much less more likely to search medical assist for postpartum melancholy in the event that they have been to develop it, inflating the protecting impact of no historical past of melancholy on perinatal/postpartum melancholy.

General, this was a well-designed and cautious research with necessary findings for ladies of a child-bearing age who could also be delicate to hormonal modifications in reference to their melancholy.

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This was a well-designed and cautious research with necessary findings for ladies of a child-bearing age who could also be delicate to hormonal modifications in reference to their melancholy.

Implications for follow

There may be rising proof to assist the contribution of hormonal modifications in postpartum melancholy. Quantifying the chance will inform postpartum melancholy prediction modelling sooner or later. The event of precision drugs that would spin out from these prediction fashions may result in remedies which are extra focused for ladies with melancholy delicate to hormonal change. In the end, higher and earlier identification of people in danger means higher reproductive and obstetric care.

These findings could also be helpful for normal practitioners in highlighting who amongst their sufferers of a child-bearing age may want extra assist within the postpartum interval. It could additionally inform decision-making round beginning or resuming hormonal contraception in the course of the postpartum interval.

In reference to implications for follow, these analyses are purely associational and don’t make any causal claims. Ideally, we’d require randomised managed trials of hormonal contraception-related melancholy and postpartum melancholy to deduce a causal impact right here. Randomising individuals to have melancholy is just not solely unethical, it’s unattainable, so different strategies equivalent to goal trial emulation or re-analysis of RCT knowledge of hormonal contraception is perhaps helpful to triangulate (or pull collectively) proof from completely different sources to deduce causation.

These findings might assist in figuring out these at a better danger of postpartum melancholy early of their reproductive life and offering extra tailor-made assist to their wants.

Assertion of pursuits

No battle of pursuits to declare.


Main paper

Larsen SVMikkelsen APLidegaard ØFrokjaer VG. Despair Related With Hormonal Contraceptive Use as a Danger Indicator for Postpartum DespairJAMA Psychiatry. 2023;80(7):682–689. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2023.0807

Different references

Halbreich U, Borenstein J, Pearlstein T, Kahn LS. The prevalence, impairment, affect, and burden of premenstrual dysphoric dysfunction (PMS/PMDD). Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003;28(suppl 3):1-23. doi:10.1016/S0306-4530(03)00098-2

O’Hara MW, Swain AM. Charges and danger of postpartum melancholy—a meta-analysis. Int Rev Psychiatry. 1996;8(1):37-54. doi:10.3109/ 09540269609037816

Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard Ø. Affiliation of hormonal contraception with melancholy. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(11):1154-1162. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387

Dennerstein L, Morse CA, Varnavides Ok. Premenstrual pressure and melancholy—is there a relationship? J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 1988;8 (1):45-52. doi:10.3109/01674828809016780

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