, Volume 11, Issue 5-6, pp 335-345

Influence of oxytocin or epidural analgesia on personality profile in breastfeeding women: a comparative study

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Abstract

Women undergo physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy, labor and lactation. The psychological adaptations can be affective, cognitive and behavioral and can be measured by dimensional personality instruments. This study aims to compare (1) the personality profile in mothers after birth with a normative group of non-lactating women and to examine (2) whether the personality profile differs 2 days, 2 months and 6 months after birth between mothers who have been exposed to epidural anesthesia, oxytocin administration or neither. Sixty-nine primiparae were assigned to four groups: mothers having received oxytocin infusion during labor (OT iv group, n = 9), mothers having received epidural analgesia with/without oxytocin infusion (EDA group, n = 23), mothers having received 10 iU oxytocin intramuscularly after birth (OT im group, n = 15) and mothers having received none of these treatments (unmedicated group, n = 22). At 2 days and 2 and 6 months postpartum mothers completed the Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP). The unmedicated, the OT iv- and OT im groups scored significantly lower on anxiety and aggression related scales and higher on the socialization subscale during the entire observation period when compared with a normative group. These differences were not observed in the EDA group 2 days postpartum. At 2 and 6 months postpartum, the scores of the EDA group had changed significantly and were almost similar to the KSP scores of the other groups. ANCOVA analysis revealed that OT infusion, over and above the effects of EDA, was associated with decreased levels of several anxiety and aggression subscales. We conclude that women who received exogenous oxytocin during labor show similar positive personality traits during breastfeeding such as reduction in anxiety and aggression and increasing socialization, including maternal behavior, that have previously been ascribed to endogenous oxytocin. More importantly, these effects were not seen at 2 days postpartum in women who received epidural anesthesia during labor.