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Clinical Trial of Estrogen for Postpartum Depression
This study is currently recruiting participants.
Verified by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC), January 2008
Sponsored by: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Information provided by: National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00059228

This study evaluates the efficacy of estrogen treatment in women with postpartum depression (PPD).

PPD causes significant distress to a large number of women; the demand for effective therapies to treat PPD is considerable. Estradiol therapy has a prophylactic effect in women at high risk for developing PPD. The prevention of a decline in estradiol levels may prevent the onset of PPD. Studies also suggest that estradiol has antidepressant effects in women and may provide a safe and effective alternative to traditional antidepressants in women with PPD.

Participants will be screened with a medical history, physical examination, blood and urine tests, psychological tests, genetic studies, and self-rating scales and questionnaires. Upon study entry, women will be randomly assigned to wear skin patches containing either estradiol or placebo (a patch with no active ingredient) for 6 weeks. Women who receive estradiol and do not menstruate during the last week of the study will receive progesterone for 7 days to initiate menstruation. Women who receive placebo and do not menstruate during the last week of the study will continue to receive placebo at the end of the study. Every week, participants will have blood taken and will be asked to complete symptom self-rating scales. A urine sample and blood samples will be collected at different time points through out of the study. Participants who receive placebo and those whose symptoms do not improve with estradiol therapy will be offered treatment with standard antidepressant medications for 8 weeks at the end of the study.

Condition Intervention Phase
Postpartum Depression
Drug: 17 beta-estradiol
Phase II

MedlinePlus related topics: Antidepressants Depression Postpartum Depression
Drug Information available for: Depogen Estradiol Estradiol 3-benzoate Estradiol acetate Estradiol cypionate Estradiol dipropionate Estradiol valerate Polyestradiol phosphate
U.S. FDA Resources
Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Treatment, Randomized, Double Blind (Subject, Caregiver, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor), Parallel Assignment, Efficacy Study
Official Title: The Efficacy of 17Beta-Estradiol in Postpartum-Related Depressive Illness

Further study details as provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (2) the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). [ Time Frame: Weekly (main outcomes at 2 and 6 weeks) ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D); visual analogue scale (VAS) measuring the reported severity of 15 mood and behavioral symptoms; SCID interview.@@@ [ Time Frame: Weekly (main outcomes at 3 and 6 weeks) ] [ Designated as safety issue: No ]

Estimated Enrollment: 44
Study Start Date: April 2003
Arms Assigned Interventions
1: Experimental
Drug: 17 beta-estradiol
Alora 100 microgram per day by skin patch for 6 weeks.
2: Placebo Comparator
Placebo comparator
Drug: 17 beta-estradiol
Alora 100 microgram per day by skin patch for 6 weeks.

Detailed Description:

Postpartum-related mood disorders cause significant distress to a potentially large number of women. The demand for effective therapies for treating these mood disorders is considerable, as is the need to define clinical or biologic markers that may predict successful response of these mood disturbances to estradiol. Despite the prevalence of postpartum depressions, only one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of a single psychotropic agent has been performed in this condition. Similarly, despite evidence of estradiol's therapeutic efficacy in trials that were both open (monotherapy) (1) and controlled (combined with traditional antidepressant agents (2), the potential of estradiol to be an effective alternative to traditional psychotropics in postpartum depression has not been examined under controlled conditions.

Postpartum depressions occur by definition after delivery when women are relatively hypogonadal. Indeed, plasma estradiol and progesterone levels are low and comparable to those seen during the peri and postmenopause. However, there is no evidence that postpartum depression represents a simple hormone deficiency, and women with postpartum depression are not distinguished from women without postpartum depression on the basis of any abnormality of basal reproductive hormones. Nonetheless, a role for declining estradiol secretion has been suggested by the following observations: 1) estradiol therapy has been reported to have a prophylactic effect in women at high risk for developing postpartum depression (3), suggesting that the prevention of a decline in estradiol levels (threshold or rate of decline) may prevent the onset of postpartum depression in some women; and (2) declining ovarian steroids trigger the onset of mood disturbances in women with but not women without a history of postpartum depression during a scaled down model of pregnancy in the puerperium (4). Thus, as with depressions occurring during the perimenopause, when ovarian hormone secretion is also declining, postpartum depression may also be responsive to estradiol therapy. In fact, open trials of estradiol therapy in postpartum depression (1) as well as a trial of estradiol in combination with traditional antidepressants (2) have suggested that estradiol does have antidepressant-like effects that are observed within a three week period in women with postpartum onset major depression. Thus, estradiol treatment may not only provide a safe and effective alternative to traditional antidepressants in women with postpartum depression, but it may also suggest the relevant hormonal trigger for the development of this condition.

In this protocol we wish to investigate the effects of estradiol on mood in women with moderately severe postpartum depression under placebo controlled conditions. This protocol will address the following question: 1) Does estradiol improve mood in postpartum depressed women?


Ages Eligible for Study:   20 Years to 45 Years
Genders Eligible for Study:   Female
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Subjects for this study will meet the following criteria:

  1. A history of at least two weeks with postpartum-related mood disturbances of moderate severity, and self-report of the onset of depression within three months of a normal vaginal delivery or uncomplicated Caesarean section;
  2. A current episode of minor (meeting 3-4 criterion symptoms) or major depression (of moderate severity or less on the SCID severity scale and not meeting DSM-IV criteria symptom 9 [suicidal ideation]) as determined by the administration of the minor depression module of the SADS-L and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Additionally, to ensure that subjects meet a minimum threshold for severity of depression, subjects will have scores greater than or equal to 10 on either the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) or the Center for Epidemiologic Studies - Depression (CES-D) Scale during at least three of the six clinic visits during the two week screening phase, as well as a 17 item Hamilton Depression score greater than or equal to 10. Subjects will be excluded if they meet any of the following criteria: major depression of greater than moderate severity (including postpartum psychosis). DSM-IV criteria #9 (suicidal ideation), or anyone requiring immediate treatment after clinical assessment.
  3. Not greater than six months post delivery;
  4. Age 20 to 45;

5.) No prior hormonal therapy for the treatment of postpartum-related mood or physical symptoms within the last six months;

6) No history of psychiatric illness during the two years prior to the reported onset of the current episode of depression;

7) In good medical health, and not taking any medication or dietary and herbal supplements on a regular basis (with the exception of multivitamins or calcium supplements).


The following conditions will constitute contraindications to treatment and will preclude a subject's participation in this protocol:

1) severe major depression with any of the following:

  1. positive (threshold) response to SCID major depression section item # 9, suicidal ideation;
  2. anyone requiring immediate treatment after clinical assessment;
  3. severity ratings greater than moderate on the SCID IV interview (including postpartum psychosis);

2) current treatment with antidepressant medications

3) history of psychiatric illness during the two years before the reported onset of the current episode of depression or a history of either mania (DSM-IV criteria) or postpartum psychosis at any time in the past.

4) history of ischemic cardiac disease, pulmonary embolism, retinal thrombosis, or thrombophlebitis; any subject with risk factors for thrombo-embolic phenomena including cigarette smokers (greater than 10 cigarettes per day), varicose veins, patients with prolonged periods of immobilization (including prolonged travel), and active heart disease.

5) renal disease, asthma

6) hepatic dysfunction

7) women with a history of carcinoma of the breast, or women with a family history of the following: premenopausal breast cancer or bilateral breast cancer in a first degree relative; multiple family members (greater than three relatives) with postmenopausal breast cancer

8) women with a history of uterine cancer, endometriosis, ill-defined pelvic lesions, particularly undiagnosed ovarian enlargement, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding

9) patients with a known hypersensitivity of estradiol, Alora, or medroxyprogesterone acetate

10) pregnant women

11) porphyria

12) diabetes mellitus

13) cholecystitis or pancreatitis

14) history of cerebrovascular disease (stroke), epilepsy, hypertension, hypercalcemia

15) recurrent migraine headaches

16) malignant melanoma

17) history of familial hyperlipoproteinemia

  Contacts and Locations
Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00059228

Contact: Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office (800) 411-1222 prpl@mail.cc.nih.gov
Contact: TTY 1-866-411-1010

United States, Maryland
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, 9000 Rockville Pike Recruiting
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
  More Information

NIH Clinical Center Detailed Web Page  This link exits the ClinicalTrials.gov site

Responsible Party: National Institutes of Health ( Peter J. Schmidt, M.D./National Institute of Mental Health )
Study ID Numbers: 030161, 03-M-0161
Study First Received: April 22, 2003
Last Updated: October 6, 2008
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00059228  
Health Authority: United States: Federal Government

Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Gonadal Steroids
Estrogen Response Element
Postpartum Depression

Study placed in the following topic categories:
Pregnancy Complications
Estradiol valerate
Estradiol 17 beta-cypionate
Depressive Disorder
Behavioral Symptoms
Depression, Postpartum
Puerperal Disorders
Mental Disorders
Estradiol 3-benzoate
Mood Disorders
Polyestradiol phosphate

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Contraceptive Agents
Therapeutic Uses
Physiological Effects of Drugs
Contraceptive Agents, Female
Hormones, Hormone Substitutes, and Hormone Antagonists
Reproductive Control Agents
Pharmacologic Actions

ClinicalTrials.gov processed this record on January 30, 2009