PROBLEM: The systemic T helper 1/T helper 2 (Th1/Th2) cytokine balance during normal human pregnancy is controversial, and observations about the balance in the postpartum period have only been reported for up to 3 months.
METHOD: Whole-blood, from 83 healthy pregnant women, 80 healthy postpartum women, and 31 healthy non-pregnant women was stimulated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) and ionomycin, and the levels of cytokines in the supernatant were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
RESULTS: The production of all measured cytokines decreased during pregnancy, especially in the second trimester. After delivery, interferon-Γ (IFN-Γ) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) increased from 2 to 11 months postpartum, and IL-4 increased from 6 to 11 months postpartum.
CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that 1) decreases in production of both Th1- and Th2-type cytokines during pregnancy may be related to the pregnancy-induced amelioration of autoimmune diseases; 2) increases in production of both Th1- and Th2-type cytokines in the postpartum period may be related to the postpartum aggravation of autoimmune diseases.