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Research Could Pinpoint Postpartum Depression Risks

BOSTON (CBS) - Having a baby is supposed to be a joyful time for moms. But more than a million women in the U.S. suffer from postpartum depression every year.

Local researchers have started a study to see if they can identify women who are at high risk of developing the condition.

Patricia Nellis had her first baby in December, "I've had an awesome pregnancy and so far a fantastic baby."

WBZ-TV's  Sera Congi reports

But some women aren't so fortunate and find themselves depressed and anxious during and after their pregnancy. Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis, assistant professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School and principal investigator on the study, explains,"Postpartum depression affects a mother's ability to interact with her baby and in severe cases, this can lead to infant neglect or suicidal thoughts on the part of the mother."

That's why researchers at UMass Medical School are taking part in a new national study.

They're using special scans to measure the levels of certain brain chemicals in pregnant women to see whether they can identify women who may be more likely to develop postpartum depression. Dr. Deligiannidis explains, "The hope is to develop a screening test so we can identify these women at an earlier point and offer them treatment sooner."

Constance Moore, the associate professor of psychiatry and Associate Direction of Translational Imaging, says, "Perhaps by learning more about brain chemicals, we can learn about treatments more appropriate for women with postpartum depression."

Patricia says she decided to take part in the study to help other moms, "If I can help someone with postpartum or help the doctors, it something I would mind doing."

UMass is looking for healthy pregnant women to take part in the national study over the next two years. For more information, visit


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