Quite a number of women suffer from postnatal depression a few weeks after they have given birth. According to researchers, approximately 14 percent of women who have given birth will suffer from postnatal depression. Some women who suffer from this form of depression go through a lot of turmoil, sometimes lasting for more than a few years. In this light, it can be helpful for the expecting mother to know if she will develop postnatal depression. Scientists are experimenting with some methods to determine if a woman can develop postnatal depression. One of these methods involves a simple blood test. Is it possible? Let’s take a look.
The symptoms of postnatal depression include irritability, anxiety, reduced sexual drive, crying spells, changes in sleeping and eating habits, and sadness. It’s important to distinguish postnatal depression from “baby blues” where the symptoms are temporary and milder. Most women go through a period of “baby blues” because of the demands of motherhood and the changes in their lives. As for women who suffer from postnatal depression, the illness can be quite devastating. If they don’t get the necessary professional help, it can spiral into something more serious.
According to a study conducted at the University of Warwick Medical School, the researchers propose that it’s possible to predict the likelihood that a woman will suffer from postnatal depression. This is done by checking for specific genetic variants, and the researchers are confident that a blood test can be used to make a similar prediction. On May 7, 2012, the University of Warwick’s professor of molecular medicine, Dr. Dimitris Grammatopoulos, presented the findings of the study to the European Congress of Endocrinology/International Congress of Endocrinology.
Using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Score, the researchers from the university studied a group of 200 pregnant women. The first time that the women were assessed was the time of their first prenatal visit. After that, the women were assessed for a second time about two to eight weeks after they have given birth. The researchers discovered that the women who suffered from postnatal depression had a higher probability of possessing specific genetic variants such as the hormone receptor-1 genes that release corticotrophin and the glucocorticoid receptor’s rs242939 single nucleotide polymorphisms and bcl1. The hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, an endocrine system, is controlled by these receptors. This system is activated by stress.
Dr. Grammatopoulos explained that the University of Warwick’s study was the first to prove that there’s a link between postnatal depression and the specific genetic variants of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. Buoyed by the findings from this study, she revealed that the university will be expanding their research with women from other parts of England in a bigger, multi-centre study. The focus will be on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis’ other genetic elements.
As you can see from the results of this groundbreaking study at the University of Warwick, it’s possible to predict postnatal depression with a blood test. It will be a great help for pregnant women if they know that they are likely to develop postnatal depression because they can be better prepared to deal with it.