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 or second trimester of pregnancy
  • You have not had gastrointestinal surgery (having had an appendectomy or cholecystectomy does not make you ineligible)
  • 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 3 visits to UNC (in the first or second trimester, in the third trimester, and 6-8 weeks postpartum) and 1 phone visit (about one week postpartum). You will be asked to collect a fecal sample at each time point. At each visit you will: be assessed for depression and anxiety, complete a diet assessment, and have a blood sample collected. A psychiatric assessment will be conducted at the first visit.

You will receive $300 in gift cards for full participation

To get more information please contact: Hannah Rackers, Study Coordinator (919) 445-2729, or Mary Kimmel at (919) 445-0216 or email mary_kimmel@med.unc.edu

Baby Brain Development Research Study

Help us learn more about early development of baby brain and behavior.

UNC researchers are recruiting pregnant women for a research study of mothers and babies from 3rd trimester of pregnancy to 1 year after baby is born.

We will study 3 groups of babies. These groups are based on their mothers’ use of substances any time during pregnancy:

1. Mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy (alone or with other substances).
2. Mothers who used other substances but did not use cocaine during pregnancy. These substances may include tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, opiates, or others.
3. Mothers who did not use any tobacco, alcohol, opiates, or illegal substances during pregnancy.

***All information collected is confidential***

Participation includes:

  • Visit for Mom in 3rd trimester of pregnancy
  • Brain Imaging (MRI) of sleeping infant’s brain
    • MRI is a safe way to get brain images with NO radiation or X-ray
    • NO sedation or separation from your infant is necessary
  • Interviews, questionnaires & substance use screenings for mom
  • Lab visits for mom and baby

Earn up to $420.00 for full participation

Free Parking or transportation to UNC for study visits

If interested, please contact:

UNC Mother Infant Research Studies
Phone: 919-843-3419
Email: MotherBabyLab@unc.edu

Visit: www.motherbabylab.com

Gut Microbiome and Anxiety in Infants (Pregnancy – 2 Weeks Postpartum)

Are you pregnant or have you recently given birth? Have you ever wondered why some babies are bold while others are cautious? Join our research study and help us find out why!

Our goal is to understand how microbes (tiny organisms) living in our gut affect brain development and babies’ responses to new situations. Babies who are very fearful in new situations may be at risk for later psychiatric problems such as depression or anxiety and this could be the result of differences in their gut microbes. Participating children will have a MRI scan of the brain at 2 weeks of age. MRI does not use X-rays or radiation. All children will be scanned while sleeping naturally. We will also collect a small blood sample via heel prick, several samples of saliva (spit), and a urine sample. When your child is 1 year old, we will observe how he/she responds to new people and toys. He/she will also receive a MRI scan at this visit. We will collect a small blood sample via heel prick and spit samples as before. In addition, we will ask you to collect fecal (stool) samples from your child prior to both visits.

Families will receive $200 for each study visit (Potential total of $400) and be reimbursed for travel expenses/gas and parking.

To learn more about this study, please call: Jennifer Prater, Study coordinator (919) 843-5902 or (866) 849-0541 (Toll Free) or contact Dr. Rebecca Knickmeyer, Principal Investigator (919) 966-216

Research Studies for Postpartum Women


0 – 12 months postpartum

TMS and Postpartum Depression (0-12 months postpartum)

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). All office visits, medical evaluations, and rTMS treatments related to this study will be provided at no cost to patients. Childcare may be provided. Participants will receive $250 compensation upon completion of all study visits.

For more information contact Brenda at (919) 843-8084 (bpearson@med.unc.edu).