New blood marker linked to postpartum depression risk

New York, July 28 (IANS) An international team of researchers has found a marker in the blood that can identify women who might be at particular risk for depression after their child’s birth.

They identified a role that the gene oxytocin receptor may play in increasing the chance of a woman developing postpartum depression.

The hormone oxytocin is known to play a positive role in healthy birth, maternal bonding, relationships, lower stress levels, mood and emotional regulation in mothers.

Postpartum depression is a debilitating disorder that affects nearly 20 percent of new mothers, putting their infants at increased risk for poor behavioral, cognitive and social development, the study noted.

“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 of the study Jessica Connelly, assistant professor of psychology at University of Virginia in the US.

“The role of the oxytocin system in maternal behaviour is well known in rodents. Our work emphasises its importance in the human maternal condition and places the epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor at the forefront,” said study co-author C Sue Carter, director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in the US.

The finding appeared in the journal Frontiers in Genetics.

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