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Universal screening for postpartum depression is recommended in many countries. Knowledge of whether the disclosure of depressive symptoms in the postpartum period differs across cultures could improve detection and provide new insights into the pathogenesis. Moreover, it is a necessary step to evaluate the universal use of screening instruments in research and clinical practice. In the current study we sought to assess whether the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), the most widely used screening tool for postpartum depression, measures the same underlying construct across cultural groups in a large international dataset.
Ordinal regression and measurement invariance were used to explore the association between culture, operationalized as education, ethnicity/race and continent, and endorsement of depressive symptoms using the EPDS on 8209 new mothers from Europe and the USA.
Education, but not ethnicity/race, influenced the reporting of postpartum depression [difference between robust comparative fit indexes (∆*CFI) < 0.01]. The structure of EPDS responses significantly differed between Europe and the USA (∆*CFI > 0.01), but not between European countries (∆*CFI < 0.01).
Investigators and clinicians should be aware of the potential differences in expression of phenotype of postpartum depression that women of different educational backgrounds may manifest. The increasing cultural heterogeneity of societies together with the tendency towards globalization requires a culturally sensitive approach to patients, research and policies, that takes into account, beyond rhetoric, the context of a person's experiences and the context in which the research is conducted.
Postpartum depression (PPD) affects approximately 13% of women and has a negative impact on mother and infant, hence reliable biological tests for early detection of PPD are essential. We aimed to identify robust predictive biomarkers for PPD using peripheral blood gene expression profiles in a hypothesis-free genome-wide study in a high-risk, longitudinal cohort.
We performed a genome-wide association study in a longitudinal discovery cohort comprising 62 women with psychopathology. Gene expression and hormones were measured in the first and third pregnancy trimesters and early postpartum (201 samples). The replication cohort comprised 24 women with third pregnancy trimester gene expression measures. Gene expression was measured on Illumina-Human HT12 v4 microarrays. Plasma estradiol and estriol were measured. Statistical analysis was performed in R.
We identified 116 transcripts differentially expressed between the PPD and euthymic women during the third trimester that allowed prediction of PPD with an accuracy of 88% in both discovery and replication cohorts. Within these transcripts, significant enrichment of transcripts implicated that estrogen signaling was observed and such enrichment was also evident when analysing published gene expression data predicting PPD from a non-risk cohort. While plasma estrogen levels were not different across groups, women with PPD displayed an increased sensitivity to estrogen signaling, confirming the previously proposed hypothesis of increased sex-steroid sensitivity as a susceptibility factor for PPD.
These results suggest that PPD can be robustly predicted in currently euthymic women as early as the third trimester and these findings have implications for predictive testing of high-risk women and prevention and treatment for PPD.
Major depressive disorder during pregnancy associates with potentially detrimental consequences for mother and child. The current study examined peripheral blood gene expression as a potential biomarker for prenatal depressive symptoms.
Maternal RNA from whole blood, plasma and the Beck Depression Inventory were collected longitudinally from preconception through the third trimester of pregnancy in 106 women with a lifetime history of mood or anxiety disorders. The expression of 16 genes in whole blood involved in glucorticoid receptor (GR) signaling was assessed using real-time polymerase chain reaction. In parallel, plasma concentrations of progesterone, estradiol and cortisol were measured. Finally, we assessed ex vivo GR sensitivity in peripheral blood cells from a subset of 29 women.
mRNA expression of a number of GR-complex regulating genes was up-regulated over pregnancy. Women with depressive symptoms showed significantly smaller increases in mRNA expression of four of these genes – FKBP5, BAG1, NCOA1 and PPID. Ex vivo stimulation assays showed that GR sensitivity diminished with progression of pregnancy and increasing maternal depressive symptoms. Plasma concentrations of gonadal steroids and cortisol did not differ over pregnancy between women with and without clinically relevant depressive symptoms.
The presence of prenatal depressive symptoms appears to be associated with altered regulation of GR sensitivity. Peripheral expression of GR co-chaperone genes may serve as a biomarker for risk of developing depressive symptoms during pregnancy. The presence of such biomarkers, if confirmed, could be utilized in treatment planning for women with a psychiatric history.
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