Depression in pregnancy, low birth weight tied to biomarker

January 12, 2017
A recent study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center shows pregnant women experience a dramatic decline of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in their last trimester, which may contribute to depression during pregnancy and low birth weights. Credit: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Depression is very common during pregnancy, with as many as one in seven women suffering from the illness and more than a half million women impacted by postpartum depression in the U.S. alone. The disorder not only affects the mother's mood, but has also been linked to influencing the newborn's development, according to recent research.

Lower blood levels of a biomarker called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have been associated with depression in multiple studies, mainly in non-pregnant adults.

Now, in a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, research from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that BDNF levels change during pregnancy, and can cause depression in the mother and in the baby.

"Our research shows BDNF levels change considerably across pregnancy and provide predictive value for depressive symptoms in , as well as poor fetal growth. It's notable that we observed a significant difference in BDNF in women of different races," said Lisa M. Christian , an associate professor of psychiatry in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center and principal investigator of the study.

Researchers took blood serum samples during and after pregnancy from 139 women and observed that BDNF levels dropped considerably from the first through the third trimesters, and subsequently increased at postpartum.

Overall, black women exhibited significantly higher BDNF than white women during the perinatal period.

Controlling for race, lower BDNF levels at both the second and third trimesters predicted greater depressive symptoms in the third trimester. In addition, women delivering low versus healthy weight infants showed significantly lower BDNF in the third trimester, but didn't differ in at any point during pregnancy, which suggests separate effects.

"The good news is there are some good ways to address the issue," Christian said. "Antidepressant medications have been shown to increase BDNF levels. This may be appropriate for some pregnant women, but is not without potential risks and side effects."

"Luckily, another very effective way to increase BDNF levels is through exercise," she said." With approval from your physician, staying physically active during can help maintain BDNF , which has benefits for a woman's mood, as well as for her baby's development."

Other Ohio State researchers who participated in this study were Amanda M. Mitchell, Shannon L. Gillespie and Marilly Palettas.

Explore further: Depressed patients are less responsive to chemotherapy

Related Stories

Depressed patients are less responsive to chemotherapy

December 17, 2016
A brain-boosting protein plays an important role in how well people respond to chemotherapy, researchers report at the ESMO Asia 2016 Congress in Singapore.

Prior miscarriage, weight affect exercise, well-being in pregnant women

December 21, 2016
Women with a history of miscarriage and women who are overweight or obese prior to pregnancy tend to have poorer psychological health and lower motivation to exercise during their next pregnancy compared to women without ...

Chronic stress increases level of a protein that decreases availability of mood-regulating chemical

September 13, 2016
They have found elevated levels of transglutaminase 2, or TG2, in the brains of mice experiencing chronic stress - an animal model of depression - as well as the prefrontal cortex of depressed people who committed suicide.

A common genetic variant regulates the mental health benefits of exercise

September 21, 2016
A new study revealed that a common genetic variant in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene reduces the neurobiological benefits induced by physical exercise in mice.

Scientists find molecular evidence of brain changes in depressed females

September 16, 2011
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have discovered molecular-level changes in the brains of women with major depressive disorder that link two hypotheses of the biological mechanisms that lead ...

Recommended for you

Encouraging risk-taking in children may reduce the prevalence of childhood anxiety

December 13, 2017
A new international study suggests that parents who employ challenging parent behavioural (CPB) methods – active physical and verbal behaviours that encourage children to push their limits – are likely protecting their ...

Anti-stress compound reduces obesity and diabetes

December 13, 2017
For the first time, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich could prove that a stress protein found in muscle has a diabetes promoting effect. This finding could pave the way to a completely new treatment ...

Researchers link epigenetic aging to bipolar disorder

December 12, 2017
Bipolar disorder may involve accelerated epigenetic aging, which could explain why persons with the disorder are more likely to have - and die from - age-related diseases, according to researchers from The University of Texas ...

Researchers find common psychological traits in group of Italians aged 90 to 101

December 12, 2017
In remote Italian villages nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains lives a group of several hundred citizens over the age of 90. Researchers at the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San ...

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

New therapy can help schizophrenia sufferers re-engage socially

December 11, 2017
A new therapy aimed at helping young people suffering from schizophrenia to reconnect and engage with the world around them has had promising results, according to a new University of Sussex-led study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.