By checking for specific genetic variants, researchers from the University of Warwick Medical School have been able to predict which women are likely to suffer from postnatal depression.
This, they believe, may lead to a simple blood test able to make the same prediction.
Approximately one in seven women suffer from postnatal depression. It typically begins about two weeks after giving birth. The likelihood of a woman developing the disorder cannot be predetermined at present.
The better-known “baby blues” tend to be much milder and shorter-lived, the researchers said. Postnatal depression symptoms include sadness; changes in eating and sleeping habits; crying spells; reduced sexual drive; anxiety and irritability.
Dr. Dimitris Grammatopoulos, a professor of molecular medicine at the University of Warwick, presented the findings May 7 to the International Congress of Endocrinology/European Congress of Endocrinology.
The researchers twice assessed a group of 200 pregnant women using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Score — once during their first prenatal visit to the clinic, and once two to eight weeks postpartum.
Women who developed depression were more likely to have specific genetic variants of the bcl1 and rs242939 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the glucocorticoid receptor and the corticotrophin-releasing hormone receptor-1 genes. Those receptors control an endocrine system, the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is activated by stress.
“Although we knew already that there was an association of the HPA axis with depression, ours is the first study to show a link between specific elements of this pathway and the particular case of PND,” said Grammatopoulos.
“We now intend to conduct further research on other genetic variants of the HPA axis in a larger, multi-centre study” with women from other parts of England, he said.
Source: University of Warwick