Postnatal Depression and Oxytocin
In a study published by the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, there could be a link between post-natal depression and the hormone Oxytocin. It is very difficult for mothers suffering from post-natal depression to be there for their children and researchers think hormone therapy with Oxytocin could be a useful part of those treatments, but more studies need to be conducted.
According to the study, Post-natal depression is a common disorder, affecting 10 to 20 percent of mothers. Children cared for by mothers with postnatal depression are at risk of adverse outcomes, with increased rates of psychiatric disorders and developmental problems. Postnatal depression is clearly linked to poorer parenting behaviors, based on the results of 33 studies. “Compared to non-depressed controls, mothers with PND interact with their infants less sensitively, report feeling less competent, and less often choose recommended practical parenting strategies,” said one researcher.
Oxytocin — a hormone that plays important roles in labor and breast-feeding — also seems to have significant effects on parenting. In 13 studies, higher oxytocin levels were associated with parental behaviors likely to promote bonding. For example, mothers showed increased levels of oxytocin after affectionate contact with their infant. Some studies have suggested that parental behaviors may improve after treatment with oxytocin.
There are still some conflicting data that needs to be reconciled with further research. For more information, read the full study.