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Low oxytocin levels and symptoms of post-partum depression
Low levels of the hormone oxytocin during the late stages of pregnancy could be linked to the development of post-partum depression (PPD), according to a prospective study published online this week in Neuropsychopharmacology. Further understanding of this mechanism could help lead to preventative treatments for this condition.
PPD affects up to one fifth of new mothers and can have devastating consequences for both mother and child, but little is known about its causes. Gunther Meinlschmidt and colleagues tested the association between symptoms of PPD and oxytocin, which is involved in adjustment to pregnancy, delivery, breast milk production, and mother-infant bonding. After analyzing blood samples from 74 healthy pregnant women, the authors found that lower oxytocin levels in the third trimester were associated with increased risk of developing PPD within two weeks after giving birth.
These preliminary findings appear to support previous research linking oxytocin with depression and stress responses, but future studies are needed to verify a causal relationship.Author contact:
Gunther Meinlschmidt (Faculty of Psychology, University of Basel, Switzerland)
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Diane Drexler (Neuropsychopharmacology, Brentwood, TN, USA)
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