Is perinatal depression familial?

J Affect Disord. 2006 Jan;90(1):49-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2005.10.006. Epub 2005 Dec 5.


Background: While major depressive disorder (MDD) is familial, it is not clear whether distinct familial-genetic factors influence vulnerability to depression during or after pregnancy. Here we examine familial aggregation of perinatal major depression (PND, any episode during pregnancy or the month after childbirth) and the subset of post-partum depression (PPD) in families with multiple cases of recurrent, early-onset MDD from the Genetics of Recurrent Early-Onset Depression dataset.

Methods: The dataset included 691 childbearing women who could be classified as PND (27.6%) or non-PND (NPND), of whom 328 were members of 148 sibships with two or more PND or NPND women. PND and NPND subjects were compared for differences in putative predictors. Prediction of sibling PND or PPD by the proband's history was examined using logistic regression and general estimating equation methods.

Results: PND was associated with fewer episodes and younger current age. Odds ratios for prediction of sibling status were significant for PND (2.28) and PPD (3.96), particularly when current age was under 46 (2.87 and 4.39, respectively). ORs for PPD were not significantly different from those for PND. The OR for PPD (3.52), but not for PND, remained significant after current age was introduced as a covariate, but not when both current age and number of episodes were included in the model.

Limitations: Because detailed data were not collected for all pregnancies, we cannot determine whether current age and number of episodes mediated the observed effects due to recall bias or other factors (cohort effect, number of episodes).

Conclusions: A familial component to PND, and particularly PPD, is suggested by the results. However more systematic study is needed to confirm this result. A greater understanding of both genetic and non-genetic familial factors could lead to improved prevention and clinical management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / epidemiology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / genetics*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Siblings / psychology*