Essential Reads: Neurosteroids, Allopregnanolone and Vulnerability to Depression in Women

By | July 15, 2021

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from a depressive disorder.  In addition, they are vulnerable to mood disorders associated with reproductive functioning, specifically premenstrual dysphoric disorder, perinatal depression, and perimenopausal depression. There is strong evidence to indicate that biological factors (genetic vulnerability, hormonal changes) and psychosocial factors (life stress) interact with one another and modulate susceptibility to depressive symptoms. But precisely how these factors interact is now well understood.  

In a recent review, Sophie Schweizer-Schubert and colleagues review the most recent research on reproduction-associated mood disorders, which indicates that some women experience an increased sensitivity to not only fluctuations in levels of reproductive steroids (estrogen and progesterone), but also exhibit increased sensitivity to stress-related steroids.  This article focuses on how GABA-ergic neurotransmitter systems may modulate the interaction between reproductive steroid and sex steroid systems, and sheds light on the role allopregnanolone may play in medicating vulnerability to depression. 

 Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Schweizer-Schubert S, Gordon JL, Eisenlohr-Moul TA, Meltzer-Brody S, Schmalenberger KM, Slopien R, Zietlow AL, Ehlert U, Ditzen B.  Steroid Hormone Sensitivity in Reproductive Mood Disorders: On the Role of the GABAA Receptor Complex and Stress During Hormonal Transitions.  Front Med (Lausanne). 2021 Jan 18;7:479646. Free article. 

MGH Center for Women's Mental Health

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