80% of new moms suffer from the baby blues after their baby arrives. 20% of new moms will go on to suffer from postpartum depression. Researchers have found that a blood test may identify which new moms have a high risk of developing the sometimes debilitating condition known as postpartum depression.
Women with a history of depression may have a predisposition to postpartum depression, but there is no real way to identify which moms will go on to suffer from PPD after the birth of the babies. However, that all could change very soon.
“But in a small study of 52 pregnant women described in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found changes in certain genes, which they could pick up in the blood, that distinguished women who went on to suffer from postpartum from those who did not. The genetic changes were epigenetic modifications, which means they were not permanent alterations in the women’s genomes but instead reflected differences in the way these genes were activated…They found that estrogen, which increases during pregnancy, triggers changes in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that’s responsible for memory and mood, and that two genes were affected in particular. Not much was known about these snippets of DNA, except that they played some role in processes that are important for regulating mood — such as adapting to new environments and reorganizing neural circuits to make such accommodations possible.
It turned out the same genes were affected in women who experienced postpartum depression as well, and Kaminsky and his colleagues believe that the genes made the women more sensitive to the dramatic drop in estrogen that occurred after birth. Without the estrogen, the genes may not have been as active, which could have contributed to the depressed mood that these women felt following delivery. Based on the levels of compounds made by these genes that could be picked up in the blood, these two genetic markers predicted with 85% accuracy which pregnant women went on to develop postpartum depression, and which ones did not.” (Source)
By testing expecting mothers during their pregnancies, high-risk women can be identified and receive the support and treatment they need so that may be able to prevent the condition from being a long term problem.