Background: Maternal plasma lipids, including total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), increase during pregnancy, remaining elevated over prepregnancy levels through the immediate postpartum period. Triglycerides decrease rapidly to prepregnancy levels after delivery. Few data on postpartum lipid levels are available, and levels in postpartum women with depression have not been evaluated. We sought to determine the cross-sectional levels of total cholesterol, LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglycerides between 1 and 14 weeks postpartum in postpartum women with DSM-4 diagnoses of major depression and determine if they are similarly elevated to published levels in other postpartum populations. Methods: As part of screening for a randomized controlled trial comparing treatments for postpartum depression (PPD), women (n=120) had postpartum fasting lipid levels determined. Linear regression models were used to assess the association between time postpartum and lipid levels. Analysis of covariance models (ANCOVA) assessed the association of baseline characteristics with lipids. Results: Total cholesterol levels were >200mg/dL in 45% of the sample at baseline. Mean baseline total cholesterol was 196±39mg/dL. There was an inverse linear relationship between postpartum week and total cholesterol, with cholesterol values decreasing an average of 4.5mg/dL per week. Similarly, LDL-C and HDL-C trended down over time. Triglycerides were stable and within the normal range during the observation period. Conclusions: Total cholesterol, HDL-C, and LDL-C are significantly elevated in the early postpartum period and do not return to <200mg/dL until 6 weeks postpartum in women with PPD. The magnitude and duration of elevation are consistent with the sparse published data on nondepressed women.
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