GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (January 26, 2022) — Signs of inflammation in the blood reliably predict and identify severe depression in pregnancy, reports a new study led by scientists at Van Andel Institute and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

From left to right: Qiong Sha, Ph.D., of VAI, Lena Brundin, M.D., Ph.D. of VAI, Eric Achtyes, M.D., M.S. of Pine Rest, LeAnn Smart of Pine Rest

The team’s analysis established a set of 15 biological markers found in the blood that can predict if pregnant women will experience significant depressive symptoms with 83% accuracy. The findings could give physicians a much-needed tool to identify women who may be at risk for depression and better tailor their care throughout pregnancy.

Nearly one in five new mothers experience severe depression during or after pregnancy and an estimated 14% have suicidal thoughts. Inflammation can lead to worsening depressive symptoms, and pregnancy is a major inflammatory event.

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Courtesy of Van Andel Institute

Co-authors on the study include Qiong Sha, Ph.D., Zach Madaj, M.S., Sarah Keaton, Ph.D., Martha L. Escobar Galvis, Ph.D., and Stanislaw Krzyzanowski of VAI; LeAnn Smart of Pine Rest; Asgerally T. Fazleabas, Ph.D., and Richard Leach, M.D., of Michigan State University College of Human Medicine; and Teodor T. Postolache, M.D., of University of Maryland School of Medicine.