Associations between Postpartum Depression, Breastfeeding, and Oxytocin Levels in Latina Mothers

Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo, Kathryn McKenney, Arianna Di Florio, Samantha Meltzer-Brody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Postpartum depression (PPD), often comorbid with anxiety, is the leading medical complication among new mothers. Latinas have elevated risk of PPD, which has been associated with early breastfeeding cessation. Lower plasma oxytocin (OT) levels have also been associated with PPD in non-Latinas. This pilot study explores associations between PPD, anxiety, breastfeeding, and OT in Latinas. Materials and Methods: Thirty-four Latinas were enrolled during their third trimester of pregnancy and followed through 8 weeks postpartum. Demographic data were collected at enrollment. Depression was assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) at each time point (third trimester of pregnancy, 4 and 8 weeks postpartum). The Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was administered postpartum and EPDS anxiety subscale was used to assess anxiety at each time point. Breastfeeding status was assessed at 4 and 8 weeks postpartum. At 8 weeks, OT was collected before, during, and after a 10-minute breast/bottle feeding session from 28 women who completed the procedures. Descriptive statistics are provided and comparisons by mood and breastfeeding status were conducted. Analyses of variance were used to explore associations between PPD, anxiety, breastfeeding status, and OT. Results: Just under one-third of women were depressed at enrollment. Prenatal depression, PPD, and anxiety were significantly associated with early breastfeeding cessation (i.e., stopped breastfeeding before 2 months) (p < 0.05). There was a significant interaction between early breastfeeding cessation and depression status on OT at 8 weeks postpartum (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Lower levels of OT were observed in women who had PPD at 8 weeks and who had stopped breastfeeding their infant by 8 weeks postpartum. Future studies should investigate the short- and long-term effects of lower OT levels and early breastfeeding cessation on maternal and child well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-442
Number of pages7
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Latina
  • anxiety
  • breastfeeding
  • early breastfeeding cessation
  • oxytocin
  • postpartum depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery

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