Stress-related genetic polymorphisms in association with peripartum depression symptoms and stress hormones: A longitudinal population-based study

Alkistis Skalkidou, Inger Sundström Poromaa, Stavros I. Iliadis, Anja C. Huizink, Charlotte Hellgren, Eva Freyhult, Erika Comasco*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Individual differences in the response of the stress system to hormonal changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period render some women susceptible to developing depression. The present study sought to investigate peripartum depression and stress hormones in relation to stress-related genotypes. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale was used to assess peripartum depressive symptoms in a sample of 1629 women, followed from pregnancy week seventeen to six months postpartum. Genotypes of ninety-four haplotype-tag single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in sixteen genes of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis pathway were analyzed and data on psychosocial and demographic factors was collected. In sub-studies, salivary cortisol awakening response in gestational week 35–39, salivary evening cortisol levels in gestational week 36 and postpartum week 6, and blood cortisol and cortisone levels in gestational week 35–39 were analyzed. SNP-set kernel association tests were performed at the gene-level, considering psychosocial and demographic factors, followed by post-hoc analyses of SNPs of significant genes. Statistically significant findings at the 0.05 p-level included SNPs in the hydroxysteroid 11-beta dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11B1) gene in relation to self-rated depression scores in postpartum week six among all participants, and serpin family A member 6 (SERPINA6) gene at the same time-point among women with de novo onset of postpartum depression. SNPs in these genes also associated with stress hormone levels during pregnancy. The present study adds knowledge to the neurobiological basis of peripartum depression by systematically assessing SNPs in stress-regulatory genes and stress-hormone levels in a population-based sample of women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-305
Number of pages10
Early online date7 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Cortisol
  • Gene
  • Hormones
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • Perinatal depression
  • Postpartum depression
  • Single nucleotide polymorphism
  • Stress


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