The connection between PMS and PPD

Like many health concerns that mainly affect women, the connection between postpartum depression (PPD) and PMS or PMDD (premenstrual syndrome, or the more severe version, premenstrual dysphoric disorder) was speculated about, but not closely studied. However, anecdotal evidence has existed for some time about a connection between hormonal mood changes associated with the menstrual cycle and mood changes associated with delivery and birth. In recent years, a few studies have drawn a strong association between more severe premenstrual symptoms and a higher risk of postpartum depression.

Connecting PMS and PPD

Evidence shows that women who experience PMS and PMDD don’t have significantly different levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in their bodies than women who do not experience these conditions. This has lead researchers to believe that, for women who experience PMS and PMDD, these symptoms are caused by a different reaction to changes in hormone levels rather than to the levels themselves. Since these hormones also go through significant shifts during and after pregnancy, there seems to be a logical connection between PMS and PMDD and an increased risk of experiencing postpartum depression.

Though relatively few studies have explored the link between PMS, PMDD, and PPD, several studies draw a strong association between heightened premenstrual symptoms and postpartum depression, including a 2013 study conducted by the University of Iowa, a 2012 Swedish study, and a 2017 study conducted at the Scandinavian College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Other studies have not shown such a robust connection.

This connection is no guarantee of postpartum depression symptoms – it’s just one of several factors that lead to an increased risk of PPD, a list that also includes risk factors such as a history of depression, and life-stress factors like childcare stress and a strained relationship with a partner. Knowing about an increased risk of experiencing PPD can help pregnant and postpartum women keep an eye on their moods, and get the support they need sooner if they do experience PPD. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnancy, it’s a good idea to let your healthcare provider know about your history of PMS or PMDD so you can discuss your risk of PPD.

Read more
  • C.T. Beck. “Predictors of postpartum depression: an update.” Nursing Research. 50(5): 275-85. September-October 2001. Retrieved July 3 2018.
  • Melissa M. Buttner, et al. “Examination of premenstrual symptoms as a risk factor for depression in premenstrual symptoms as a risk factor for depression in postpartum women.” Archive of Women’s Mental Health. 16(3): 219-225. June 2013. Retrieved June 3 2018.
  • Karolina Maliszewska, Mariola Bidzan, Malgorzata Swiatkowska-Freund, Krzystof Preis. “Medical and psychological determinants of risk of postpartum depression: a cross-sectional study.” Acta Neuropsychiatrica. 29: 347-355. December 2017. Retrieved July 3 2018.
  • MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health. “What is the link between PMS and Postpartum Depression.” MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health. MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health, August 29 2013. Retrieved July 3 2018.
  • Sara M. Sylven. “Premenstrual syndrome and dysphoric disorder as risk factors for postpartum depression.” Acta Obstetrica Gynecologica Scandinavica. November 16 2012. Retrieved July 3 2018.
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