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Genetic markers for postnatal depression


One in seven mothers experiences post natal depression (PND). The depressive symptoms usually appear about two weeks after childbirth. A blood test may be able to determine which women are most at risk for this type of depression.

“Current screening policies rely on the opportunistic finding of PND cases using tools such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Score (EPDS), but such tests cannot identify women at risk, ahead of them developing the condition,” said Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos, Professor of Molecular Medicine at Warwick’s University.

They discovered that women who developed PND had a higher likelihood of having specific genetic variants. These receptors are involved in controlling the activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal axis. This is an endocrine system that is activated in response to stress. The findings indicate that PND may be a particular subtype of depression with a distinct genetic element. That would mean that some women are predisposed to reacting stronger to the triggers for depression.

“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. We now intend to conduct further research on other genetic variants of the HPA axis in a larger, multi-Centre study involving women from Coventry, Birmingham, and London. We think that we have made an important step forward in characterizing the prospective risks and are therefore paving the way for timely, appropriate medical treatment for women who are likely to develop PND,” explained Grammatopoulos.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, International Congress of Endocrinology/European Congress of Endocrinology

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