Cornell University Study Reveals Potential Biological Predictor for Postpartum Depression

A team of investigators from Weill Cornell Medicine has released a new study analyzing the biological mechanisms of pregnancy-related mental health disorders.

For their study, the authors examined differences in the levels of RNA released by two types of immune cells (macrophages and monocytes) in women during pregnancy compared to six months postpartum. It is a regular function of immune cells to release bits of RNA into the bloodstream, and the amount of RNA released by these cells increases during pregnancy. The recent study found that among women who were not depressed during pregnancy, but later developed postpartum depression, there was a drop off in the levels of RNA released by the women’s immune cells during the second and third trimesters of their pregnancies. The same trend was not found among women who did not go on to experience postpartum depression.

The study authors stress their findings point towards the need to conduct blood tests with pregnant women in order to uncover any biological predispositions for postpartum depression. By identifying women who are at a high-risk for developing postpartum mental health concerns, clinicians can provide treatment and resources to women before they even start to display symptoms. Additionally, the authors believe their findings suggest a need for mental-health medications that are specifically tailored to pregnant women, rather than common anxiety and depression medications that are prescribed to the general population.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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