Lindsey Garfield Funded Projects
Postpartum Depressive Symptoms: A Search for a Biologic Marker
Funding Source: National Institute of Nursing Research, Pre-Doctoral Fellowship
Faculty Sponsor: Rosemary White-Traut
Dates: 8/16/07– 2/15/11
Abstract: This research proposal is an opportunity for me to achieve my short and long-term objectives. Currently, I am in my second year of the doctoral program at the University of Illinois and my long-term objectives include furthering my research skills to lay the foundation for my career as a nurse researcher and educator. The primary aim of my dissertation research proposal is to examine the relationships among neuroendocrine mechanisms (oxytocin and cortisol) and a physiological process (post partum depressive symptoms) in women with very low birth weight infants who are cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Postpartum depressive symptoms affect 10-50% of mothers and causing mothers and infants adverse outcomes. Contributing factors (such as biologic and psychologic factors, health behaviors, and stress) affect postpartum depressive symptoms through the mediation of neuroendocrine mechanisms (cortisol and oxytocin). Cortisol is the hormone that is released during stressful events and has conflicting results on its relationship with depression. Another neuroendocrine mechanism that initiates mothering behavior is oxytocin, which is released during labor, breastfeeding, and touch. Oxytocin is inhibited by emotion, anxiety, and pain. Oxytocin has never been examined with postpartum depression and this is a gap in our current knowledge of this condition. Cortisol and oxytocin are balancing hormones and will be measured from the same specimens. Many researchers (including myself) speculate that oxytocin and cortisol will have a relationship with postpartum depressive symptoms. My study will be part of a primary study conducted by Diane Holditch-Davis, R01 NR009418, and funded by the National Institutes of Health. My study will use an exploratory cross sectional design with multiple and possible logistic regression to examine the aim stated above. Instruments and procedures for this research include salivary assays (for oxytocin and cortisol), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (for postpartum depressive symptoms), Parental Stressor Scales (for stress), and questionnaires to assess biologic and psychologic factors and health behaviors. Data will be collected at enrollment into the primary study. The knowledge gained from this proposed research will further describe social and biological relationships with postpartum depressive symptoms. Once these relationships are established, a potential biologic marker (for example, oxytocin and cortisol) can be used as a diagnostic procedure for postnatal depression. This will benefit up to 50% of mothers with this condition that are not currently diagnosed.