A Pilot Study of Oxytocin in Low-Income Women With a Low Birth-Weight Infant: Is Oxytocin Related to Posttraumatic Stress?


Journal Article

BACKGROUND:Negative outcomes related to prematurity may lead to maternal distress. Mothers of premature/low birth-weight infants report increased posttraumatic stress (50%) and depressive symptoms (63%) compared with mothers of full-term infants. Low-income, minority mothers with greater posttraumatic stress and depression have an increased risk for premature/low birth-weight delivery compared with their white counterparts. Variations in the neuropeptide oxytocin are implicated in lactation, perinatal depression, and maternal behavior. PURPOSE:To examine the associations among posttraumatic stress, depressive symptoms, and oxytocin in a pilot sample of minority mothers with premature/low birth-weight infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). METHODS:This study employed a descriptive, correlational pilot design of 8 minority, low-income mothers with premature/low birth-weight infants. Participants answered questionnaires pertaining to posttraumatic stress, depression, lactation, and demographics and oxytocin was measured. This is a substudy that added oxytocin values. RESULTS:Four participants had elevated depressive symptoms and 5 supplied their own milk. Women who provided their own milk had lower depressive (t = 3.03, P = .023) and posttraumatic stress (t = 3.39, P = .015) symptoms compared with women not supplying their own milk. Women with elevated posttraumatic stress had higher levels of depressive symptoms (r(8) = 0.8, P = .006) and lower levels of oxytocin (r(8) = 0.77, P = .026). IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE:These results are congruent with previous literature on providing human milk and maternal mental health. In addition, we found a possible relationship between postpartum posttraumatic stress and oxytocin in minority women with premature/low birth-weight infants. NICU nurses should encourage lactation and assess mothers for posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms. IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH:Research is needed to identify the biologic milieu associated with posttraumatic stress and depression in at-risk mothers.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Garfield, L; Holditch-Davis, D; Carter, CS; McFarlin, BL; Seng, JS; Giurgescu, C; White-Traut, R

Published Date

  • August 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 / 4

Start / End Page

  • E12 - E21

PubMed ID

  • 30893095

Pubmed Central ID

  • 30893095

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1536-0911

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1536-0903

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1097/anc.0000000000000601


  • eng