A randomised controlled trial on intranasal oxytocin as an adjunct to interaction coaching to improve maternal bonding in women with mild postpartum depression

Rebecca A. McErlean, Mark R. Dadds, Marie Paule Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstractpeer-review


Background: Oxytocin has been implicated in maternal behaviour across
mammalian species. Human research has thus far concentrated on oxytocin
plasma levels which correlate with maternal sensitivity and successful infant
bonding. Improving maternal bonding has implications for increasing
children’s attachment and their resiliency to psychiatric illness. Current
pharmacological treatments for postnatal depression (PND) fail to remediate
associated mother-infant disturbances and nasal oxytocin may be a potential
alternative when combined with behavioural interventions. We report on
the first study to evaluate the combined and individual effects of maternal
sensitivity training and nasal spray oxytocin on maternal bonding.
Methods: 80 mothers with sub-clinical levels of PND (M= 8.5 EPDS) with
infants 8- 30 weeks were randomly allocated to receive 24IU oxytocin or
placebo nasal-spray across two sessions as an adjunct to mother-baby interaction
coaching. Measures were taken across three time periods (Baseline, T1, T2) for
questionnaire data (Postpartum Bonding Questionnaire) and observational
data (Murray’s Global Rating scale for maternal sensitivity and responsivity).
Results: Preliminary analyses reveal depression levels remaining stable across
time in contrast with a significant reduction in bonding difficulties over the
three visits (p=.032). This was more pronounced for mothers receiving oxytocin
over placebo (p=.082). Full data set will be available following the breaking of
oxytocin/placebo codes according to ethics protocol.
Conclusions: Improving maternal bonding via delivery of intranasal oxytocin
will provide further evidence of a role for the neuropeptide in regulating
maternal behaviours, and provide proof of concept for its potential use as a
treatment for early bonding problems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number449
Pages (from-to)134S-134S
Number of pages1
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number9 supplement
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes
Event66th Annual Meeting of the Society-of-Biological-Psychiatry - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 12 May 201114 May 2011

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