Doctors believe that a £10 blood test they have developed could help tens of thousands of women.
This new research identifies genetic variations in the hormonal pathway in pregnant women that indicates a high risk of developing postnatal depression.
This new screening test could be carried out as part of routine NHS antenatal health checks.
Once those who have risk of developing the disease have been identified they can be treated before they give birth to their baby. Postnatal depression affects one in seven, that’s around 90,000 women.
Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos, who led the research at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, described the research as being “extremely important”.
He told Sky News: “There is evidence that if you can identify women at risk early you could treat early or introduce measures to prevent or stop the process of the disease.”
Sky News has reported that a study of 200 pregnant women, published in the current edition of the Journal of Psychiatric Research found two molecular “signatures” in the genes that increased the risk of postnatal depression by up to five times.
The researchers believe that changes in oestrogen levels during pregnancy make women more sensitive to the stress hormone cortisol. However, most women are able to “reset” this hormonal imbalance soon after the birth of their baby. But, for those with the genetic variations are unable to do so, leading to postnatal depression.
This new breakthrough is set to change the lives of tens of thousands of women and their families.