The gut microbiome and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMAD): A pilot study to examine the microbiome in relation to perinatal changes in stress and immune systems

Need/Problem: PMAD are common and can have grave consequences for mother including a risk of suicide and negative effects on the child’s development. However, the biologic mechanisms underlying PMAD are unclear. There is evidence that certain gut microbiota are associated with depression and anxious behaviors.

Grant Summary: This grant is a novel approach to studying PMAD by studying the microbiota of women across the perinatal period (pregnancy and the postpartum time period) in relation to the development of depression and anxiety.

Goals and Projected Outcomes: The goal of the study is to collect and analyze the gut microbiota samples in each trimester and 8 weeks postpartum from women with histories of mood and anxiety disorders and women without mood and anxiety disorders.

Kai Xia

Grant Details: PMAD are common and have grave consequences for the mother including a risk of suicide and negative effects on the child’s development. While some mechanisms underlying the development of PMAD have been implicated such as sensitivity to changes in the gonadal steroids and changes in the immune and stress systems, the biological mechanisms remain unclear.

The gut-brain axis is one possible system that connects the immune system, stress system and the nervous system. The gut and brain are in constant communication and a major component of the gut is the millions of bacteria and other organisms that live there (the gut microbiota). There is evidence that certain gut microbiota associate with depression and anxious behaviors in animals as well as two small studies in humans. During pregnancy the gut microbiota has also been found to change across pregnancy.

This feasibility study will inform research to study whether the gut microbiota can predict women who will develop PMAD. In particular, we will test the hypothesis that pro-inflammatory bacteria is more likely associated with PMAD and anti-inflammatory bacteria will be associated with lower risk of developing PMAD. We will study women at high risk of developing PMAD due to having histories of anxiety and mood disorders and women who do not have histories but still have the general population 1 in 8 chance of developing a PMAD.