Immune Changes and Dysphoric Moods Across the Postpartum

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C-reactive protein, cytokines, immunity, moods, postpartum

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Problem: Little is known about postpartum immune recovery and relationships of common dysphoric moods, stress, immunology, and endocrinology.

Method of Study: Healthy women (n = 72) were followed for six postpartum months with immune and hormone measures and dysphoric moods and stress scales. A panel of cytokines produced in mitogen-stimulated whole blood assays were measured at each time, along with plasma levels of hsC-reactive protein (hsCRP), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), and a panel of hormones.

Results: Cellular immunity, measured by production of Interferon-gamma (IFNγ) and (Interleukin-2 (IL-2) from stimulated whole blood culture, was low in the early postpartum with changes by 3 months. Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) showed a similar pattern. Plasma levels of CRP and Interleukin-6 (IL-6) showed higher levels in the early postpartum. Mood disturbance scores dropped across the postpartum with a change in slope at 3 months. No significant relationships were found between immune, endocrine, and psychosocial measures.

Conclusion: Return to normal cellular immune function may take 3–4 months in the postpartum. Some aspects of early immunology (hsCRP and IL-6) probably reflect the latter stage of pregnancy, the stress of birth and the inflammation associated with involution. Dysphoric moods are higher in the early postpartum but are not related to immune factors or hormones.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, v. 73, issue 3, p. 193-198