Imagine that a simple blood draw and two-gene analysis could predict a pregnant woman’s chances of developing postpartum depression after delivering her child.

A new study out of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that might one day be possible.

Writing today in Molecular Psychiatry, Hopkins’ Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., and his colleagues show that DNA methylation at TTC9B and HP1BP3 correlate significantly with the development of postpartum depression, such that the epigenetic changes predicted with 85% certainty which of the 52 mothers-to-be they studied might show symptoms.

Said Kaminsky, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, in a statement: “We were pretty surprised by how well the genes were correlated with postpartum depression.” With additional research and larger studies, he added, “this could prove to be a powerful tool.”

As such, he and his colleagues are working to collect blood samples from a larger group of pregnant woman and to follow them for an extended period of time. The ultimate goal, Kaminsky said, is to develop a blood test to screen for the epigenetic markers, one which might eventually be added to the battery of tests women undergo during pregnancy.

“If you knew you were likely to develop postpartum depression, your decisions about managing your care could be made more clearly,” he said.

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