Can Oxytocin Level Predict Postpartum Depression?

2015-06-09 01:38:23 | BioPortfolio


The goal of this research study is to understand the relationship between the hormone oxytocin and postpartum mood. Based on previous research, the investigators hypothesize that lower plasma oxytocin concentration during pregnancy will predict a greater likelihood of postpartum depression. Second, it is expected that oxytocin concentration in the third trimester will show an inverse relationship with the severity of depressive symptoms at 4 - 6 weeks postpartum.

Potential participants in the study will be screened for eligibility during their third trimester of pregnancy, using a combination of questionnaires. Those who are eligible for participation will have one blood sample drawn at this time, and then be asked to complete a follow up questionnaire at 4-6 weeks postpartum to assess for depressive mood symptoms. This follow up questionnaire can be completed either in person or on the telephone. Anyone who is interested in receiving help for their mood at any point in the study will receive referrals.


Postpartum depression affects some one in five new mothers, and adversely influences maternal adaptation to motherhood. While it is known that women with a prior history of depression, or depression during pregnancy, are at elevated risk for postpartum depression, many women with no prior history of depression or other risk factors go on to develop depression in the postpartum period. Considering the grave consequences of postpartum depression on maternal infant bonding and childhood psychological development, it is critical to develop reliable methods to identify which women, who are not depressed during pregnancy, will become depressed after delivery.

The biological pathways leading to depression at any time in life, including around pregnancy, are still poorly characterized. Oxytocin, a hormone involved in delivery and lactation, has received recent attention regarding its additional role in maternal emotions and care taking behaviors after birth. Specifically, lower plasma oxytocin concentration in the third trimester of pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of depression at two weeks postpartum (Skrundz et al., 2001).

The primary goal of this study is to replicate previous findings and clarify whether oxytocin is predictive of clinically significant depression at 4 - 6 weeks postpartum, using a more comprehensive diagnostic measure for depression.

Study Design

Observational Model: Cohort, Time Perspective: Prospective


Postpartum Depression


Northwestern Memorial Hospital
United States


Active, not recruiting


Northwestern University

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2015-06-09T01:38:23-0400

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