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Biomarkers ID Risk of Postpartum Depression

Biomarkers ID Risk of Postpartum Depression

Emerging research suggests a method to identify the susceptibility to postpartum depression may be on the horizon.

Postpartum depression is a significant condition that affects nearly 20 percent of new mothers putting their infants at increased risk for poor behavioral, cognitive, and social development.

The newly discovered blood marker is based on the relationship between the hormone oxytocin and emotional regulation.

“Our data need to be replicated, but it is our hope that the oxytocin receptor marker we have identified will be useful to clinicians in identifying women at risk for postpartum depression,” said first author Aleeca Bell, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of Illinois, Chicago.

Oxytocin plays a positive role in healthy birth, maternal bonding, relationships, lower stress levels, as well as mood and emotional regulation. The hormone is also associated with postpartum depression when a mother has lower levels of the hormone.

In the study, a University of Virginia researcher and a team from several institutions in the United States and England hypothesized that the oxytocin receptor may play a role in the development of postpartum depression.

Investigators then identified a relationship between genetic and epigenetic markers that influence the gene responsible for the over- or under-production of oxytocin. This is turn increases or decreases the chance of a woman developing postpartum depression.

The study appears in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

“We can greatly improve the outcome of this disorder with the identification of markers, biological or otherwise, that can identify women who may be at risk for its development,” said Dr. Jessica Connelly, an assistant professor of psychology at University of Virginia who is the senior author of the study.

“We know that women who have experienced depression before pregnancy are at higher risk of developing depression in the postpartum period. However, women who have never experienced depression also develop postpartum depression. These markers we identified may help to identify them, in advance.”

“The role of the oxytocin system in maternal behavior is well known in rodents. Our work emphasizes its importance in the human maternal condition and places the epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor at the forefront,” said study co-author Dr. C. Sue Carter, director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

Source: University of Virginia/EurekAlert

Biomarkers ID Risk of Postpartum Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Biomarkers ID Risk of Postpartum Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 28 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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