Current Psychiatry Reports

, 20:78 | Cite as

Neuroactive Steroids and Perinatal Depression: a Review of Recent Literature

  • Katherine McEvoy
  • Jennifer L. Payne
  • Lauren M. OsborneEmail author
Reproductive Psychiatry and Women's Health (CN Epperson and L Hantsoo, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Reproductive Psychiatry and Women's Health


Purpose of Review

The purpose of this review is to provide a theoretical explanation and a review of the recent literature concerning the role of neuroactive steroids in perinatal depression, and to use this information to suggest future directions of research.

Recent Findings

The bulk of the evidence on neuroactive steroids in perinatal depression concerns allopregnanolone. Recent studies have been mixed, with some studies finding a direct correlation between lower levels of allopregnanolone and increased depressive symptoms but other studies finding no relationship. Evidence concerning other neuroactive steroids and perinatal depression is sparse.


Additional research is needed with larger sample sizes and better characterization across the perinatal period (rather than cross-sectionally). Because some studies point to a lag between neuroactive steroid dysregulation and subsequent symptoms, future research should consider interactions with other aspects of neuroactive steroid physiology, such as synthetic enzymes or receptor plasticity.


Neuroactive steroids Neurosteroids Allopregnanolone Perinatal depression Postpartum depression 



The authors would like to acknowledge the help of Julie Nanavati, an informationist at Johns Hopkins University who assisted with the literature search, and of Cate Kiefe, an artist with the Department of Medical Illustration at Johns Hopkins, who created the figure.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Katherine McEvoy and Lauren M. Osborne declare no conflict of interest.

Jennifer L. Payne reports grants and personal fees from SAGE Therapeutics and has done legal consulting for Eli Lilly and Abbott Pharmaceuticals. In addition, Dr. Payne holds a patent for epigenetic biomarkers of postpartum depression.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine McEvoy
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Payne
    • 1
  • Lauren M. Osborne
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Women’s Mood Disorders CenterJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA

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