Pregnant women could soon take a blood test to determine whether or not they are at risk for postpartum depression, scientists say.
Experts from John Hopkins University in the US hope that the test will be available within two years. Blood tests on a study of 52 pregnant women resulted in 85 percent accuracy in early trials.The test can detect two genes in DNA that may signal the onset of postpartum depression, which can affect nearly one in five new mothers within weeks of giving birth. The risk raises to about one in three for women with previously diagnosed mood disorders."Postpartum depression can be harmful to both mother and child," says study leader Dr. Zachary Kaminsky. "But we don't have a reliable way to screen for the condition before it causes harm, and a test like this could be that way."After testing, women could be given treatment to manage or reduce the severity of the condition, or prevent it from developing at all, the researchers said. The researchers added that it's not clear what causes postpartum depression, a condition marked by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion and anxiety that begins within four weeks of childbirth and can last weeks, several months or up to a year. Scientists long believed the symptoms were related to the large drop-off in the mother's estrogen levels following childbirth, but studies have shown that both depressed and nondepressed women have similar estrogen levels.American actress Gwyneth Paltrow, 40, described her experience with postpartum depression after the birth of her son, Moses, in 2006 as "one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating" times of her life.
Findings, announced this week, appear in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. Access: http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/mp201362a.html