Oxytocin and postpartum depression: delivering on what's known and what's not

Brain Res. 2014 Sep 11;1580:219-32. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2013.11.009. Epub 2013 Nov 14.


The role of oxytocin in the treatment of postpartum depression has been a topic of growing interest. This subject carries important implications, given that postpartum depression can have detrimental effects on both the mother and her infant, with lifelong consequences for infant socioemotional and cognitive development. In recent years, oxytocin has received attention for its potential role in many neuropsychiatric conditions beyond its well-described functions in childbirth and lactation. In the present review, we present available data on the clinical characteristics and neuroendocrine foundations of postpartum depression. We outline current treatment modalities and their limitations, and proceed to evaluate the potential role of oxytocin in the treatment of postpartum depression. The aim of the present review is twofold: (a) to bring together evidence from animal and human research concerning the role of oxytocin in postpartum depression, and (b) to highlight areas that deserve further research in order to bring a fuller understanding of oxytocin's therapeutic potential. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Oxytocin and Social Behav.

Keywords: Infant; Maternal caregiving; Oxytocin; Postpartum depression; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depression, Postpartum / physiopathology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / drug effects
  • Maternal Behavior / physiology
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage
  • Oxytocin / metabolism*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / administration & dosage


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Oxytocin