The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health has awarded approximately $2.9 million, over the next five years, to Alison Stuebe, an assistant professor in the Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), for her study Mood, mother and infant: The psychobiology of impaired dyadic development.
The study will focus on how changes in maternal and infant hormones form a connection between post-partum depression (PPD) and breastfeeding.
The project grew out of a conversation Stuebe had with Samantha Meltzer-Brody, director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC Center for Women's Mood Disorders.
“I mentioned that many of the mothers I saw in my lactation clinic had significant symptoms of PPD,” Stuebe said. “[She] said many of her depressed and anxious patients reported that they were struggling with breastfeeding.”
Meltzer-Brody and Stuebe crafted a multi-disciplinary project focused on the role of oxytocin. This hormone is an essential element of the mother-infant connection that occurs during breastfeeding and has been linked to PPD.
Stuebe and Meltzer-Brody were then able to connect with Karen Grewen, director of the UNC Mother-Infant Biobehavioral Lab, to conduct preliminary research on the differences in maternal neuroendocrine response to feeding among mothers with and without depression or anxiety. Funding for this initial project was provided by the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute.
Mood, mother and infant will recruit approximately 200 mother-infant pairs during their third trimester of pregnancy. During the infant’s first year, both mother and child will visit the Mother-Infant Biobehavioral Lab where variables will be recorded during breastfeeding sessions. Maternal mood and infant behavior will also be monitored throughout the participation period.
“Our hope,” Stuebe says, “is that this work will help us understand what goes awry in postpartum depression and provide new treatment strategies.”
PPD affects more than 400,000 mothers in the US each year with implications for both the mother and child.
The award will result in over $1.9 million in direct costs and approximately $1 million in facilities and administrative costs.
The Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC (CWHR) assisted Stuebe with the research proposal submission and will now support her through the administration of the awarded funds.
Mood, mother and infant: The psychobiology of impaired dyadic development is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HD073220. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.