Postpartum depression is a debilitating disorder that affects nearly 20% of new mothers, putting their infants at increased risk for poor behavioral, cognitive and social development. An international team of researchers has found a marker in the blood, the gene oxytocin receptor, that can identify women who might be at particular risk for depression after their child's birth.
Oxytocin is known to play a positive role in healthy birth, maternal bonding, relationships, lower stress levels, mood and emotional regulation in new mothers. Senior author of the study Jessica Connelly, assistant professor of psychology at University of Virginia in the US, said, "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."
Study co-author C Sue Carter, director of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University in the US, said, "The role of the oxytocin system in maternal behavior is well known in rodents. Our work emphasizes its importance in the human maternal condition and places the epigenetic regulation of the oxytocin receptor at the forefront."
The finding appeared in the Frontiers in Genetics.