OHSU Studies Postpartum Depression

05/13/02    Portland, Ore.

Clinical trial looks at role of calcium supplements in reducing postpartum depression

A new clinical trial at Oregon Health & Science University explores the use of calcium supplements during pregnancy to reduce incidence of postpartum depression (PPD) in new mothers. PPD occurs in about 12 -16 percent of new mothers.

"There is no standard, effective, preventive treatment for PPD, so many women's health experts would like to see a safe, inexpensive therapy that works," said Daniel Hatton, Ph.D., associate professor in behavioral neuroscience at OHSU and principal investigator of the study.

OHSU researchers recently conducted a study that evaluated the effects of calcium supplements on pregnant women to reduce pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure. Hatton noticed that fewer women on calcium reported signs of clinical depression than did women who took a placebo. Those results prompted the current study.

"The mechanisms that prompt postpartum depression are relatively unknown, but we do know that women who have had a personal or family history of depression are twice as likely as others to develop postpartum depression," said Pamela Edwards, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at OHSU and one of the study's co-investigators. "These are the women that we are seeking as volunteers in our study."

Researchers hope to enroll more than 200 pregnant women in the study and follow them through 12 weeks after childbirth. The women will receive either a placebo or a controlled daily dose of calcium, which poses no risk but could provide added health benefits to the mother and child. Throughout the study, the women will undergo a routine psychiatric screening to determine levels of depression. Women found to be suffering from major depression will be referred for treatment.

The study participation volunteer line is 503 494-0017.

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