University Scholars Find a Biomarker That May Predict Women With a High Risk of Postpartum Depression

A study by researchers at the University of Virginia, the University of Illinois, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Bristol in England has determined that a biomarker in blood can identify women who are at a higher risk for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression affects about 20 percent of new mothers.

The hormone oxytocin has been shown to play a role in maternal bonding, reduced stress, and mood and emotional regulation. The current study found that women with low levels of the hormone oxytocin are more likely to develop postpartum depression.

Connelly“We can greatly improve the outcome of this disorder with the identification of markers, biological or otherwise, that can identify women who may be at risk for its development,” said senior author Jessica Connelly, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. “We know that women who have experienced depression before pregnancy are at higher risk of developing depression in the postpartum period. However, women who have never experienced depression also develop postpartum depression. These markers we identified may help to identify them, in advance.”

Dr. Connelly has been on the faculty at the University of Virginia since 2009. She is a graduate of Richard Stockton College in Galloway, New Jersey, and holds a Ph.D. in genetics from Stony Brook University in New York.

The article, “Interaction Between Oxytocin Receptor DNA Methylation and Genotype is Associated With Risk of Postpartum Depression in Women Without Depression in Pregnancy, can be viewed on the website of the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

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