Skip to content

    Health & Pregnancy

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Genes May Boost Woman's Risk of Postpartum Depression

    Test found specific changes to two genes predicted problem with 85 percent accuracy

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Amy Norton

    HealthDay Reporter

    TUESDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women with specific alterations in two genes may be at increased risk of suffering depression after giving birth, a small new study suggests.

    The researchers hope they can use the findings to develop a blood test that could help spot pregnant women who are vulnerable to postpartum depression, which affects around 15 percent of new mothers.

    Their study, reported in the May 21 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry, uncovered specific chemical changes in two genes that predicted which women would develop postpartum depression with 85 percent accuracy.

    Little is known about the genes, called TTC9B and HP1BP3, but they are somehow involved in activity in the brain's hippocampus, which regulates mood. Based on animal research, both genes seem to be "reactive to estrogen," said Zachary Kaminsky, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore who worked on the study.

    The findings offer clues as to what makes some women susceptible to postpartum depression. But there is still a lot of work to be done before a screening test becomes available, according to an expert not involved in the research.

    "This is a first step, but I think we're pretty far off from having a blood test," said Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, a professor of psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

    She said the study was small -- involving only 51 women, about a dozen of whom developed depression within a month of giving birth -- so the results need to be validated in larger studies.

    But beyond that, Yonkers said, there's the larger, "dicey" issue of how much benefit there would be from telling pregnant women their genes put them at heightened risk of postpartum depression.

    "You may unnecessarily worry some women," Yonkers said.

    "Information is power," Kaminsky said, and for some women, knowing they are at risk of postpartum depression can offer a chance to minimize that risk: Their partner, family or friends could be especially attentive and step in to ease some of the stress of being a new mom, for example.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

    Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
    what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
     
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
     
    slideshow fetal development
    Slideshow
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    Article
     
    What Causes Bipolar
    Video
    Woman trying on dress in store
    Slideshow
     
    pregnant woman
    Article
    Woman looking at pregnancy test
    Quiz
     
    calendar and baby buggy
    Tool
    dark chocolate squares
    Slideshow