Postpartum depression (PPD) has started to get a lot of attention in recent years.
This is important as it affects up to 13% of new mothers.
One of the most important things which comes from attention is more research.
Gestational Diabetes May Increase The Risk Of Postpartum Depression
This research can help us to understand risk factors, symptoms and treatment, and hopefully how to prevent women from developing PPD.
A new study has found a link between having gestational diabetes (GD) and an increased risk of PPD.
What Is Gestational Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where there’s too much glucose in the blood. Excess glucose can impact every bodily function and can be dangerous when left untreated or poorly managed.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas makes little to no insulin. This is an autoimmune disease which isn’t caused by diet or lifestyle.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body resists the effects of insulin, or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. This is frequently caused by diet and lifestyle.
Gestational diabetes (GD) occurs when a pregnant woman has elevated blood sugar. Diet and lifestyle play a significant role in increasing the risk of developing GD.
The reason a woman without type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop GD during pregnancy is due to the impact placental hormones have on blood sugar.
During pregnancy, women have slightly elevated blood sugar levels due to placental hormones. When that is mixed with inactivity and/or high carbohydrate diets which also elevate blood sugar, there’s an increased risk of developing GD. You can read more in Is Routine Testing For Gestational Diabetes Necessary?.
What Did This Study Find About Gestational Diabetes And PPD?
Researchers in Sweden conducted a nationwide retrospective cohort study of all women with live singleton births from 1997 through 2008.
Not surprisingly, there was an increased risk of PPD in mothers with a history of depression, as well as those who had a c-section or pre-term birth (both can be stressful situations).
These associations have been made in the past. But what was surprising was the increased risk of PPD in mothers who had GD during pregnancy.
Lead study author Michael E. Silverman, Assistant Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York said, “While having diabetes increases postpartum depression risk for all women, for those women who have had a past depressive episode, having diabetes during pregnancy makes it 70 per cent more likely that they will develop postpartum depression.”
Silverman also said, “Most practitioners think of these as two isolated and very different conditions, but we now understand gestational diabetes and postpartum depression should be considered together.”
Why Are Postpartum Depression Studies Important?
Postpartum depression has a profound impact on the woman, her baby and her family. It can negatively impact mother-baby bonding when left untreated. In rare instances, it can even lead to suicide.
The impact it has on families and the high incidence of more than 1 in 10 women means it’s a public health concern.
As mentioned above, research is important to help find ways to treat, prevent and better understand PPD.
How Could Having Gestational Diabetes Increase The Risk Of PPD?
Given the many studies which find correlations between a variety of pregnancy outcomes, pre-pregnancy health, birth and more, it’s likely there are many influencing factors when it comes to developing PPD.
One thing many of these factors have in common is the ability to impact hormones. Prenatal and postpartum stress, a history of depression, epidural use, synthetic oxytocin (Syntocinon or Pitocin), and gestational diabetes can all impact hormone.
Depression is a hormonal imbalance and thus it makes sense all the above are linked to an increased risk of developing PPD.
When a person has a form of diabetes their blood sugar is elevated due to a lack of adequate insulin (a hormone) necessary to keep glucose levels in the normal range.
While researchers haven’t completely figured out how having GD increases the risk of PPD, both health complications involve hormones making the connection understandable.
Is Gestational Diabetes A Serious Pregnancy Complication?
While a woman is at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life if she has GD, for many women GD seems to only affect them during pregnancy. So, it’s not that serious, right?
While it only causes diabetes during pregnancy, its side effects can be profound during pregnancy and leave a lasting impact.
The incidence of GD has increased a lot in recent decades, due to our increased intake of processed carbohydrate diets and less active lifestyles. What was once a complication of a few, is now something routinely screened for in many countries.
Left untreated, GD can affect maternal and fetal health, birth outcomes and postpartum health. Now with the knowledge that having GD can increase the risk of PPD, it may be even more important to lower your risk of developing GD. This could be especially true for women with a history of depression prior to pregnancy.
You can read more about preventing postpartum depression in Prevent Postnatal Depression – 8 Tips To Help Prevent PND.