Summary: Researchers discover a link between low levels of BDNF protein, depression in pregnant women and low birth weight.
Depression is very common during pregnancy, with as many as one in seven women suffering from the illness and more than a half million women impacted by postpartum depression in the U.S. alone. The disorder not only affects the mother’s mood, but has also been linked to influencing the newborn’s development, according to recent research.
Lower blood levels of a biomarker called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) have been associated with depression in multiple studies, mainly in non-pregnant adults.
Now, in a study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, research from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that BDNF levels change during pregnancy, and can cause depression in the mother and low birth weight in the baby.
“Our research shows BDNF levels change considerably across pregnancy and provide predictive value for depressive symptoms in women, as well as poor fetal growth. It’s notable that we observed a significant difference in BDNF in women of different races,” said Lisa M. Christian , an associate professor of psychiatry in the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center and principal investigator of the study.
Researchers took blood serum samples during and after pregnancy from 139 women and observed that BDNF levels dropped considerably from the first through the third trimesters, and subsequently increased at postpartum.
Overall, black women exhibited significantly higher BDNF than white women during the perinatal period.
Controlling for race, lower BDNF levels at both the second and third trimesters predicted greater depressive symptoms in the third trimester. In addition, women delivering low versus healthy weight infants showed significantly lower BDNF in the third trimester, but didn’t differ in depressive symptoms at any point during pregnancy, which suggests separate effects.
“The good news is there are some good ways to address the issue,” Christian said. “Antidepressant medications have been shown to increase BDNF levels. This may be appropriate for some pregnant women, but is not without potential risks and side effects.”
“Luckily, another very effective way to increase BDNF levels is through exercise,” she said.” With approval from your physician, staying physically active during pregnancy can help maintain BDNF levels, which has benefits for a woman’s mood, as well as for her baby’s development.”
Other Ohio State researchers who participated in this study were Amanda M. Mitchell, Shannon L. Gillespie and Marilly Palettas.
Funding: Funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development supported this research.
Source: Drew Schaar – Mediasource
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Video Source: Video credited to OSU Wexner Medical Center.
Original Research: Abstract for “Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) across pregnancy and postpartum: Associations with race, depressive symptoms, and low birth weight” by Lisa M. Christian, Amanda M. Mitchell, Shannon L. Gillespie, and Marilly Palettas in Psychoneuroendocrinology. Published online August 27 2016 doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.08.025
Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) across pregnancy and postpartum: Associations with race, depressive symptoms, and low birth weight
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is implicated as a causal factor in major depression and is critical to placental development during pregnancy. Longitudinal data on BDNF across the perinatal period are lacking. These data are of interest given the potential implications for maternal mood and fetal growth, particularly among Black women who show ∼2-fold greater risk for delivering low birth weight infants.
Serum BDNF, serum cortisol, and depressive symptoms (per CES-D) were assessed during each trimester and 4–11 weeks postpartum among 139 women (77 Black, 62 White). Low birth weight (<2500 g) was determined via medical record. Results Serum BDNF declined considerably from 1st through 3rd trimesters (ps ≤ 0.008) and subsequently increased at postpartum (p < 0.001). Black women exhibited significantly higher serum BDNF during the 1st trimester, 2nd trimester, and postpartum (ps ≤ 0.032) as well as lower serum cortisol during the 2nd and 3rd trimester (ps ≤ 0.01). Higher serum cortisol was concurrently associated with lower serum BDNF in the 2nd trimester only (p < 0.05). Controlling for race, serum BDNF at both the 2nd and 3rd trimester was negatively associated with 3rd trimester depressive symptoms (ps ≤ 0.02). In addition, women delivering low versus healthy weight infants showed significantly lower serum BDNF in the 3rd trimester (p = 0.004). Women delivering low versus healthy weight infants did not differ in depressive symptoms at any time point during pregnancy (ps ≥ 0.34).
Serum BDNF declines considerably across pregnancy in Black and White women, with overall higher levels in Blacks. Lower serum BDNF in late pregnancy corresponds with higher depressive symptoms and risk for low birth weight in Black and White women. However, the predictive value of serum BDNF in pregnancy is specific to within-race comparisons. Potential links between racial differences in serum BDNF and differential pregnancy-related cortisol adaptation require further investigation.
“Serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) across pregnancy and postpartum: Associations with race, depressive symptoms, and low birth weight” by Lisa M. Christian, Amanda M. Mitchell, Shannon L. Gillespie, and Marilly Palettas in Psychoneuroendocrinology. Published online August 27 2016 doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.08.025