A recent study by Dr Zachary Kaminsky, from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, identified the TTC9B and HP1BP3 genes which, when present in certain chemical alterations in pregnancy, may identify pregnant women who are at risk of developing post-natal depression. Blood tests on 52 expectant mothers predicted the onset of post-natal depression with an accuracy rate of 85 per cent. This study that was recently published in Journal of Molecular Psychiatry suggests a biological vulnerability to developing post-natal depression. Post-natal or Postpartum depression affects about 10%–18% of expectant women in the general population and, in severe cases, can result in serious consequences to both the mother and baby/babies. It is thought that the causes of post-natal depression include biological, psychological and environmental factors.
The results of the research are welcomed news, as early identification and effective treatment for post-natal depression may significantly lessen its severity. In addition, since many mothers who suffer from post-natal depression blame themselves (i.e., their personality) for developing the illness, a strong biological explanation for post-natal depression is likely to reduce the feelings of guilt, failure and shame that are often experienced and frequently lead to isolation which, subsequently, intensifies the depression.
A combination of psychiatric intervention alongside cognitive-behavioural therapy is often a preferred treatment choice. In addition, non-judgemental support from family and friends is most often highly beneficial. It is hoped that the test will be available within two years, and that women in early stages of pregnancy could soon take a blood test to find out whether they are at risk of developing post-natal depression.
Guintivano, J., Arad, M., Gould, T.D., Payne, J.L., and Kaminsky, Z.A. (2013). Antenatal prediction of postpartum depression with blood DNA methylation biomarkers. Journal of Molecular Psychiatry. Published 21 May 2013.
The Telegraph (2013). New Blood Test Could Predict Post-Natal Depression. Article by Melanie Hall. Published 22 May 2013