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Kinsey research: Postpartum women less stressed by threats unrelated to the baby
Date:12/10/2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Following the birth of a child, new mothers may have an altered perception of stresses around them, showing less interest in threats unrelated to the baby. This change to the neuroendocrine circuitry could help the mothers adapt to the additional stress often accompanying newborns, say researchers from Indiana University's Kinsey Institute and the University of Zurich.

When viewing disturbing images during the study, postpartum women reported less distress and demonstrated less activity in their amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotional response, than nulliparous, or childless, women, according to functional magnetic resonance imaging.

When the childless women were administered a nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin, however, their brain images looked more similar to the postpartum women, and they also reported less subjective stress when viewing the images.

"Our findings extend previous work showing a lower stress response with motherhood that likely enhances her ability to cope with this dramatic new role," said lead author Heather Rupp, director of psychology and neuroscience at Brain Surgery Worldwide Inc. and a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

The study, "Amygdala response to negative images in postpartum verses nulliparous women and intranasal oxytocin," was published in the online journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience and can be read at http://scan.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/nss100?ijkey=jV7MisPmEOlFPDK&keytype=ref.

While other studies have demonstrated that postpartum women are more sensitive to baby-related threats, this is the first study to show that new mothers are less responsive to stresses unrelated to the baby.

Oxytocin, which is rel
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Contact: Jennifer Bass
jbass@indiana.edu
812-855-7686
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Kinsey research: Postpartum women less stressed by threats unrelated to the baby
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