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Johns Hopkins Health - Predicting Postpartum Depression

Fall 2013
Issue No. 22

Predicting Postpartum Depression

Date: October 15, 2013

Postpartum large

It’s a common worry among new mothers: What happens if I experience postpartum depression? Could I hurt my child, or myself?

It’s a real concern. Nearly a million women a year have symptoms—up to 18 percent of all births—and results include infanticide, suicide and developmental problems for children. Now researchers believe they can predict which mothers might develop the condition, so they can get the help they need.

Studying epigenetic patterns—marks on DNA that affect how genes act—in the blood of pregnant women, researchers identified at-risk women with 85 percent accuracy, says Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins who led a study of 52 women. The next step is to collect blood samples from a larger group of women over a longer time.

If there is similar success in further trials, Kaminsky says, these blood tests one day “could become part of a normal blood screening panel.”

In the meantime, if you think you have postpartum depression, “you should go see a doctor, your internist, Ob/Gyn or a psychiatrist,” says Jennifer Payne, M.D., director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins. A care provider can work with you and provide appropriate treatment.

For more information, appointments or consultations, call 877-546-1872.

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