Mood disorders are common during and after pregnancy, and environmental metals may contribute to increased risk. Antepartum metal exposures have not been well characterized in relation to maternal depression. We evaluated the extent to which early pregnancy erythrocyte concentrations of essential and non-essential metals were prospectively associated with antepartum and postpartum depressive symptoms.
Participants were 1226 women in Project Viva, a longitudinal cohort recruited during pregnancy (1999-2002). We measured concentrations of 11 metals in maternal first trimester erythrocytes (arsenic, barium, cadmium, cesium, copper, mercury, magnesium, manganese, lead, selenium, zinc). Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), we assessed elevated depressive symptoms (≥13; 0-30 scale) at mid-pregnancy and at 6 and 12 months postpartum. We applied latent class mixed modeling to identify symptom trajectories. Adjusting for maternal sociodemographics and co-exposures, we examined associations between the metal mixture and depressive symptoms using logistic (for EPDS≥13)/multinomial (for symptom trajectories) regression and quantile g-computation.
In this cohort of moderately high socioeconomic status participants (e.g., 72 % college graduate), low-level metal concentrations were weakly to moderately correlated (Spearman: -0.24 to 0.59); the prevalence of depressive symptoms ranged from 9 % (mid-pregnancy) to 6 % (12 months postpartum); and three trajectories (stable low; elevated mid-pregnancy, then decreasing; moderate mid-pregnancy, then increasing) best fit the EPDS data. The early pregnancy erythrocyte metal mixture was not associated with maternal depressive symptoms in logistic, multinomial, or mixture models. For individual metals, most confidence intervals (CI) included the null. There was weak evidence that arsenic, lead, and selenium were moderately associated with elevated odds of depressive symptoms and/or trajectories. However, the odds ratios (95 % CI) per doubling of these three metals were imprecise [e.g., arsenic: 1.13 (0.94, 1.40) for EPDS≥13 at six months postpartum; lead: 1.19 (0.80, 1.77) for EPDS≥13 at mid-pregnancy; selenium: 2.35 (0.84, 6.57) for elevated mid-pregnancy, then decreasing versus stable low trajectory].
We did not observe strong, consistent evidence of associations between early pregnancy erythrocyte metal concentrations and subsequent maternal antepartum and postpartum depressive symptoms.