Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Public Health, 27 January 2014 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2014.00001

Oxytocin in pregnancy and the postpartum: relations to labor and its management

  • 1Departments of Psychiatry and Philosophy, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 2Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 3Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
  • 5Division of Clinical Epidemiology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

The purpose of this study was to examine variations in endogenous oxytocin levels in pregnancy and postpartum state. We also explored the associations between delivery variables and oxytocin levels. A final sample of 272 mothers in their first trimester of pregnancy was included for the study. Blood samples were drawn during the first trimester and third trimester of pregnancy and at 8 weeks postpartum. Socio-demographic data were collected at each time point and medical files were consulted for delivery details. In most women, levels of circulating oxytocin increased from the first to third trimester of pregnancy followed by a decrease in the postpartum period. Oxytocin levels varied considerably between individuals, ranging from 50 pg/mL to over 2000 pg/mL. Parity was the main predictor of oxytocin levels in the third trimester of pregnancy and of oxytocin level changes from the first to the third trimester of pregnancy. Oxytocin levels in the third trimester of pregnancy predicted a self-reported negative labor experience and increased the chances of having an epidural. Intrapartum exogenous oxytocin was positively associated with levels of oxytocin during the postpartum period. Our exploratory results suggest that circulating oxytocin levels during the third trimester of pregnancy may predict the type of labor a woman will experience. More importantly, the quantity of intrapartum exogenous oxytocin administered during labor predicted plasma oxytocin levels 2 months postpartum, suggesting a possible long-term effect of this routine intervention, the consequences of which are largely unknown.

Keywords: labor, oxytocin, pregnancy, epidural, syntocinon

Citation: Prevost M, Zelkowitz P, Tulandi T, Hayton B, Feeley N, Carter CS, Joseph L, Pournajafi-Nazarloo H, Yong Ping E, Abenhaim H and Gold I (2014) Oxytocin in pregnancy and the postpartum: relations to labor and its management. Front. Public Health 2:1. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00001

Received: 25 July 2013; Accepted: 10 January 2014;
Published online: 27 January 2014.

Edited by:

Richard Eugene Frye, Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard University, USA

Reviewed by:

Norma Beatriz Ojeda, University of Mississippi Medical Center, USA
Barbara Fuhrman, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, USA

Copyright: © 2014 Prevost, Zelkowitz, Tulandi, Hayton, Feeley, Carter, Joseph, Pournajafi-Nazarloo, Yong Ping, Abenhaim and Gold. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Ian Gold, McGill University, Leacock Building, Room 908, 855 Sherbrooke West, Montreal, QC H3A 2T7, Canada e-mail: ian.gold@mcgill.ca