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Health Psychol. 2000 Nov;19(6):560-7.

Oxytocin responsivity in mothers of infants: a preliminary study of relationships with blood pressure during laboratory stress and normal ambulatory activity.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599-7175, USA.


The neuropeptide oxytocin (OT) enhances maternal behavior and decreases blood pressure (BP) and stress responses in animals. Thus, the relationship of OT responsivity to BP in 14 breast- and 11 bottle-feeding mothers of infants was examined. Laboratory BP was assessed during baseline, speech preparation, active speech, and recovery on 2 days, 1 in which baseline and speech were separated by 10 min of baby holding and the other by no baby contact. Systolic BP reactivity to speech was lower after baby contact. Plasma OT change from baseline to speech after baby contact defined OT increase, minimal OT change, and OT decrease groups. OT increase mothers were primarily breast-feeders, and they had lower BP throughout both stress sessions and after baby feeding at home than OT decrease mothers, who also had greater BP reactivity to preparation and recovery. These results suggest that oxytocin has antistress and BP-lowering effects in humans.

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