Genetic liability to posttraumatic stress disorder and its association with postpartum depression

Psychol Med. 2023 Aug;53(11):5052-5059. doi: 10.1017/S0033291722002045. Epub 2022 Jul 11.


Background: Childbirth may be a traumatic experience and vulnerability to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may increase the risk of postpartum depression (PPD). We investigated whether genetic vulnerability to PTSD as measured by polygenic score (PGS) increases the risk of PPD and whether a predisposition to PTSD in PPD cases exceeds that of major depressive disorder (MDD) outside the postpartum period.

Methods: This case-control study included participants from the iPSYCH2015, a case-cohort of all singletons born in Denmark between 1981 and 2008. Restricting to women born between 1981 and 1997 and excluding women with a first diagnosis other than depression (N = 22 613), 333 were identified with PPD. For each PPD case, 999 representing the background population and 993 with MDD outside the postpartum were matched by calendar year at birth, cohort selection, and age. PTSD PGS was calculated from summary statistics from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium with LDpred2-auto. Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated using conditional logistic regression adjusted for parental psychiatric history and country of origin, PGS for MDD and age at first birth, and the first 10 principal components.

Results: The PTSD PGS was significantly associated with PPD (OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.20-1.68 per standard deviation increase in PTSD PGS) compared to healthy female controls. Genetic PTSD vulnerability in PPD cases did not exceed that of matched female depression cases outside the postpartum period (OR 1.10, 95% CI 0.94-1.30 per standard deviation increase).

Conclusions: Genetic vulnerability to PTSD increased the risk of PPD but did not differ between PPD cases and women with depression at other times.

Keywords: Childbirth; genetics; postpartum depression; posttraumatic stress disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / epidemiology
  • Depression, Postpartum* / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Postpartum Period / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / genetics