But there's more. In more serious postpartum depression, polymorphisms or variations of the serotonin transporter gene which already have been linked to non-pregnancy related depression appear to make bad matters worse because they are even better at taking up serotonin, he says.
Dr. Prasad, in collaboration with Dr. Sandra Pittman, director of MCGHealth's Healthy Start program, already put the laboratory findings into practice in a small study of 50 women enrolled in the federally funded program for women with high-risk pregnancies in the rural Georgia counties of Burke and McDuffie. The program was a perfect fit for the research. Healthy Start identifies women as early in pregnancy as possible who are at risk because of medical, psychosocial and/or environmental problems, Dr. Pittman says.
"We enroll women who are without housing, who are living from place to place. We often see women who are medically high risk in combination with social and environmental challenges," she says. They complete depression screenings before and after birth and refer for mental health counseling as part of their efforts to help women deal with difficult pregnancies and possibly fragile infants. Depression can make life harder for the mother and impede bonding with a new baby, Dr. Pittman says. Over the last year, when they also looked at the blood of some of these women, they found transiently elevated levels of interleukin-1 beta.
Dr. Prasad recently received a $900,000, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administrati
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia