JAN 14, 2024 8:30 AM PST

Women with Autoimmune Disease 30% More Likely to Have Perinatal Depression

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Women with autoimmune disease are 30% more likely to have perinatal depression- that is, depression before and after childbirth. The corresponding study was published in Molecular Psychiatry

Between 10 and 20% of women in the US have perinatal depression during pregnancy. Increasing evidence supports a link between immune dysregulation and perinatal depression. Major depression outside of the perinatal period has also been linked to immune system dysfunction. In the current study, researchers sought to further investigate the possibility of a link between autoimmune disease and perinatal depression. 

To do so, they analyzed Swedish healthcare data which included 825, 401 women with 1,347, 901 pregnancies between 2001 and 2013. Altogether, there were 55, 299 cases of perinatal depression. For the study, the researchers compared the incidence of 41 autoimmune diseases in women with and without perinatal depression. Conditions included autoimmune thyroiditis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis (MS), ulcerative colitis, and coeliac disease.

Ultimately, they found a bidirectional relationship between autoimmune disease and perinatal depression. Women with an autoimmune disease were 30% more likely to develop perinatal depression, and women with perinatal depression were 30% more likely to develop a subsequent autoimmune disease. 

The researchers noted that the link was more pronounced among women without previous psychiatric diagnoses and among those with MS. They wrote that their findings suggest autoimmune diseases and perinatal depression may share underlying biological mechanisms.

"Our study suggests that there's an immunological mechanism behind perinatal depression and that autoimmune diseases should be seen as a risk factor for this kind of depression," said first author of the study Emma Bränn, researcher at the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, in a press release

"Depression during this sensitive period can have serious consequences for both the mother and the baby. We hope that our results will help decision-makers to steer funding towards maternal healthcare so that more women can get help and support in time,” she concluded. 

Sources: Science Daily, Molecular Psychiatry

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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