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Adv Neonatal Care. 2019 Aug;19(4):E12-E21. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000601.

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

Author information

1
Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois (Dr Garfield); Duke School of Nursing, Durham, North Carolina (Dr Holditch-Davis); Indiana University, Bloomington (Dr Carter); University of Illinois, Chicago (Dr McFarlin); Department of Systems, Populations, and Leadership, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Ann Arbor (Dr Seng); The Ohio State University, Columbus (Dr Giurgescu); University of Illinois at Chicago, and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin and Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (Dr White-Traut).

Abstract

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.

PMID:
30893095
PMCID:
PMC6650331
[Available on 2020-08-01]
DOI:
10.1097/ANC.0000000000000601

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