Someday a pregnancy test could also alert women that they are at risk of suffering postpartum depression. The test would measure a specific hormone that peaks in a woman's body between the 23rd and 26th week of pregnancy.
In a study at the University of California, Irvine, about 15 percent of pregnant women showed an abnormal level of the hormone. Of those, about three-in-four went on to develop depression after they gave birth. The study is in the February issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.
The hormone is called placental corticotropic-releasing hormone. Researchers say if their study is confirmed, it could lead to a hormone test for postpartum depression, so those women at risk for depression could be selected for additional counseling to ward off or treat the devastating condition.
Postpartum depression is more serious than what's commonly called the "baby blues."
Other risk factors for the depression include stressful life events, a lack of social support, low self-esteem and either depression or stress during the pregnancy.