The relationship between maternal postpartum psychological state and breast milk secretory immunoglobulin A level

J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2015 Jan-Feb;21(1):23-30. doi: 10.1177/1078390314566882. Epub 2015 Jan 14.


Background: Maternal psychological state may influence the passive transfer of immune factors (e.g., immunoglobulin) via the mother's breast milk.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether a correlation exists between mothers' postpartum psychological state and their breast milk secretory immunoglobulin A (SIgA) levels.

Study design: Eighty-one mothers who delivered at an urban general hospital were included in our analysis. Two weeks after delivery, we measured their breast milk SIgA levels and simultaneously documented their psychological state using the Profile of Mood States (POMS), General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), and State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) scales.

Results: Breast milk SIgA levels were negatively correlated with negative POMS states (tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, fatigue, and confusion). A negative correlation was also observed between SIgA levels and GHQ mental health (r = -.625, P = .000), and a similar negative correlation was observed with STAI trait and state anxieties. However, no correlation existed between breast milk SIgA levels and the positive POMS state (vigor).

Conclusions: These results indicate that the maternal psychological state may affect the immune properties of breast milk.

Keywords: breast milk; immunity; maternally acquired; postpartum depression; secretory immunoglobulin A.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum / immunology
  • Depression, Postpartum / metabolism
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / metabolism*
  • Japan
  • Mental Disorders / immunology
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*


  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory