Perinatal Research

UNC now offers multiple research studies for pregnant and postpartum mothers.

Research Studies for Pregnant Women

The Gut Microbiome and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders 

Would you be willing to help UNC researchers better understand the relationship between depression and anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum and the Gut-Brain Axis? 

Microorganisms (such as bacteria) reside almost everywhere in and on the human body, outnumbering human cells by a ratio of at least 10:1.  There are 100+ trillion of these microbes in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract alone!  The purpose of this research study is to analyze the microorganisms residing in the gut of pregnant women and to see if the microorganisms differ in those that develop depression and anxiety during pregnancy or the postpartum period. Researchers from UNC Department of Psychiatry hope to better understand the gut-brain axis in order to better predict those who will develop perinatal depression and anxiety but also develop personalized treatments such as diet recommendations.

 You may be eligible if:

  • You are in the first trimester of pregnancy
  • You have not had gastrointestinal surgery (if you have had appendectomy or cholecystectomy you are eligible)
  • You do not have Irritable Bowel Disease or Celiac Disease

All study visits and medical evaluations related to this study will be provided at no cost to participants. This study requires 4 visits to UNC (each trimester and 8 weeks postpartum) and 1 phone visit (about one week postpartum).  You will be asked to collect a fecal sample at each time point and a blood sample will be taken at each visit. You will be assessed for depression and anxiety at each visit.

You will receive $25 after each of the 3 visits during pregnancy and $50 at the final visit 8 weeks postpartum.

To get more information please call Mary Kimmel at 919-445-0216 or email  

Early Brain Development in Babies of Mothers with Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, or Schizophrenia

Pregnant women with one of the above diagnoses can join this study. Women will receive ultrasounds at 22 and 32 weeks gestation, an MRI of their infant’s brain 2 weeks after birth and follow-up child developmental assessments and MRI's at 1, 2, 4 and 6 years of age (MRI brain scans involve no sedation, radiation or contrast). Participants receive $50 for each visit (potential total: $550) as well as travel and parking expenses. Transportation to UNC can be provided. For more information contact Dianne Evans at (919) 843-2389 or 866-849-0541 (


Mood, Mother, and Infant Study

You are invited to help UNC researchers understand how breastfeeding builds bonds between mothers and babies. Pregnancy and the postpartum period is a time of great transition in a woman’s life.  Researchers from UNC Departments of Psychiatry and Obstetrics are hoping to understand the complex relationship between postpartum mood, breastfeeding, and infant wellbeing.


  • Receive a free medical evaluation
  • Requires 4 visits to UNC and 9 phone visits

Upon completion of all study visits, participants receive $465 in compensation.


  • Between 18-45 years of age?
  • Third trimester of pregnancy (34 – 37 weeks pregnant)?
  • Planning on breastfeeding your baby?

If interested, please visit our website or call (919-843-8084) or email Brenda

Research Studies for Postpartum Women


0 – 12 months postpartum

TMS and Postpartum Depression

We are looking for women who are interested in treating their postpartum depression with a non-medication treatment called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS is an effective, safe, non-invasive alternative treatment to medications for people with Major Depression. TMS is an FDA approved treatment for people suffering with depression, and the American Psychiatric Association has recently recommended TMS as a treatment modality for depression. TMS has not yet been studied extensively in women with postpartum depression, although one small study documented a benefit. 

To participate in this research study, you must be between the ages of 18-45, have given birth to a single, healthy child within the past 12 months, be diagnosed with depression, and not be taking an antidepressant medication. The research study involves an intake assessment and treatment phase (daily TMS treatment visits for 4 weeks). For more information contact Brenda at (919) 843-8084 (

>12 months postpartum

NRAD Research Study

We are trying to learn how pregnancy hormones affect depression in women. You may be eligible to join if you:

• Are a healthy mother;
• Have given birth at least one year ago;
• Have regular periods;
• Are not currently pregnant or breastfeeding; and
• Either had depression during or after pregnancy or have never had depression.

In this study, we assess hormones, mood and brain activity. The study involves 13 visits to UNC over the course of 28 weeks. Participants receive a total of $2,500, a free medical exam and blood work, paid parking at UNC, and a personal report about the way hormones affect their mood.

To learn more and find out whether you qualify, please visit, or call Sarah at 919-966-5243. Thank you for your interest in our research!