Test for post-natal depression risk

A simple blood test could detect a woman's likelihood of developing post-natal depression, researchers have found.

A team at University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust and Warwick Medical School uncovered evidence of a predisposition to the illness due to variants in genes of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis - the body's "stress system".

A £10 screening test carried out before babies are born could identify and even prevent the condition in mothers who have the genetic variation.

Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos, who led the research, said: "PND is a complex condition influenced by everything from a woman's financial situation to the level of support she is given. However, our research shows there is more to the 'baby blues' than environmental factors alone and it has a strong genetic component.

"This discovery has the potential to revolutionise our care for expectant mothers by screening them before the devastating symptoms of PND set in."

His paper, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, was based on a study of 200 pregnant women.
The team identified that an overwhelming majority of women who went on to develop PND had at least one of two molecular signatures - variations in a person's DNA - which increase the risk of PND. This means they could be up to five times more likely to suffer from the illness.

Up to 15% of women are reported to suffer from PND, yet medics believe this figure could be much higher as many cases go unreported.

Copyright Press Association 2013


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