Blood marker might help in identifying postpartum depression risk

A research team has succeeded in spotting connections between the development of PPD (postpartum depression) and a particular set of genes. This finding might help in identifying women at high risks of developing PPD and would require additional postpartum care.

It was already established that the hormone called oxytocin plays a vital role in maternal status. The researchers involved in this new study have hypothesized that receptors for oxytocin might also handle the association between epigenetic and genetic markers in the gene known for putting a woman at higher risk of having PPD.

For testing the above-mentioned hypothesis, the researchers gathered data from a study called ALSPAC (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). This allowed them to get access to information about 14,541 pregnant women who were expected to give birth between April 1991 and December 1992.

These women were monitored right from the beginning of their pregnancy. Their medical records were reviewed, and later biological specimens were collected from both babies and their mothers. The blood samples from mothers were collected when they were between 7th and 14th age of gestation. This was done mostly when the pregnant women visited the doctor’s place for scheduled antenatal care.

Next, the researchers carried out studies to find out how the occurrence of postpartum depression can be related to blood-drawn epigenetic/genetic variations in OXTR or oxytocin receptor gene. For those who don’t know: Postpartum Depression is a condition marked by demonstration of depressive symptoms by new moms. The symptoms usually become visible from the 8th week of pregnancy.

Researchers looked at the augmented manifestations of PPD during pregnancy as their intensity might differ between non-pregnant and pregnant women and depression in pregnant women is believed to be a precursor of occurrence of PPD.

The findings of the study have revealed that there’s definitely a link between the occurrence of PPD and the genotype rs53576, the regulation of OXTR’s gene expression levels.

In addition, during this study, researchers also came to know that women who don’t show symptoms of depression when pregnant, but possess OXTR methylation and genotype rs53576, are almost three times more likely to develop postpartum depression than women who don’t possess any of the above mentioned genetic components.


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