Gestational Diabetes May Predispose To Postpartum Depression Symptoms

A new study links gestational diabetes in pregnancy to an increased risk of postpartum depression symptoms. Mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes in pregnancy have an elevated risk of developing postpartum depression symptoms, according to a Finnish study.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) refers to impaired glucose metabolism during pregnancy. Often, mothers with gestational diabetes have too high blood glucose levels, and this increases the risk of various adverse effects on the unborn baby. In addition to increasing a new mom’s chance of developing PPD, the research demonstrated that gestational diabetes increases the mother's risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.

Postpartum depression symptoms are experienced by 10-15 percent of mothers after childbirth.

The study pooled data from Kuopio Birth Cohort, which is an ongoing follow-up of women from the beginning of their pregnancy. In total 1,066 mothers with no previous mental health issues were selected for the study. Researchers used the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to assess depression symptoms during the third trimester of pregnancy and eight weeks after delivery.

According to the data, postpartum depression symptoms were observed in 16 percent of mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and in approximately nine percent of mothers without the condition.

The researchers used statistical methods to adjust the results for other factors contributing to the risk of GDM and postpartum depression symptoms, such as maternal age at delivery, body mass index and depression symptoms experienced during pregnancy.

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"Psychological mechanisms may partially explain the observed association between gestational diabetes and postpartum depression symptoms," says doctoral student Aleksi Ruohomäki, the first author of the study. "Being diagnosed during pregnancy with a disease that might harm the fetus can be a stressful experience, which may predispose to depression symptoms."

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"Furthermore, physiological mechanisms may also contribute to this association," adds Dr Soili Lehto, Group Leader of Kuopio Birth Cohort's mental well-being section. "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".

The study was conducted by the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Helsinki, Kuopio University Hospital, and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare. Its findings were reported in Journal of Affective Disorders.

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