Oct. 16, 2007 -- The hormone oxytocin may help pregnant women bond with their babies after giving birth, a new study shows.
Here is the study's key finding: A pregnant woman's oxytocin level during the first trimester of pregnancy is linked to her bonding with her newborn.
The study included 62 pregnant women.
The researchers -- who included Ruth Feldman, PhD, of Israel's Bar-Ilan University -- measured the women's oxytocin levels from the blood samples.
Feldman's team also videotaped the moms interacting with their newborns and interviewed the mothers about how often they checked on their baby.
Based on the interviews and videotapes, the researchers found that women with higher levels of oxytocin during pregnancy bonded better with their newborn babies.
For instance, moms with higher oxytocin levels during pregnancy gazed at their babies longer, touched their babies affectionately, had positive expressions while interacting with their baby, and reported checking on their baby more often than moms with lower oxytocin levels during pregnancy.
Oxytocin levels varied among the moms but were stable throughout pregnancy and the first postpartum month.
It's not clear how oxytocin helped moms and babies bond, but the researchers suggest that oxytocin may lower anxiety, paving the way for bonding to take place.
The study appears in the November edition of Psychological Science.