Intrapartum synthetic oxytocin, behavioral and emotional problems in children, and the role of postnatal depressive symptoms, postnatal anxiety and mother-to-infant bonding: A Dutch prospective cohort study

Elke Tichelman, Willemijn Warmink-Perdijk, Jens Henrichs, Lillian Peters, Francois G. Schellevis, Marjolein Y. Berger, Huibert Burger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To examine the association between intrapartum synthetic oxytocin and child behavioral and emotional problems and to assess if maternal depressive or anxious symptoms or mother-to-infant bonding play a mediating role in this association. Design: Prospective cohort study. Setting: Population-based Pregnancy Anxiety and Depression Study. Participants: Pregnant women in their first trimester of pregnancy visiting a total of 109 primary and nine secondary obstetric care centers in the Netherlands between 2010 and 2014 were invited to participate. Follow-up measures used for the present study were collected from May 2010 to January 2019. Women with multiple gestations and with a preterm birth were excluded. Measurements: Intrapartum synthetic oxytocin exposure status was based on medical birth records and was defined as its administration (Yes/No), either for labour induction or augmentation. Child behavioral and emotional problems were measured with the Child Behavior Checklist at up to 60 months postpartum. Maternal depressive symptoms, anxiety and mother-to infant bonding were measured with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, State Trait Anxiety Inventory and the Mother-to-Infant Bonding Scale from 6 months postpartum. We used multivariable linear regression models to estimate standardized beta coefficients and unique variance explained. Findings: 1,528 women responded. In total 607 women received intrapartum synthetic oxytocin. Intrapartum synthetic oxytocin administration was not associated with child behavioral and emotional problems, mother-to-infant bonding nor with postnatal anxiety. Intrapartum synthetic oxytocin was however significantly but weakly associated with more postnatal depressive symptoms (β=0.17, 95%CI of 0.03 to 0.30) explaining 0.6% of unique variance. Maternal postnatal depressive symptoms, postnatal anxiety symptoms and suboptimal mother-to-infant bonding were positively associated with child behavioral and emotional problems. Key conclusions and implications for practice: We found no evidence that intrapartum synthetic oxytocin is associated with child behavioral and emotional problems, mother-to-infant bonding, or with postnatal anxiety symptoms. Because there was no association between intrapartum synthetic oxytocin and behavioral and emotional problems in children no mediation analysis was carried out. However, intrapartum synthetic oxytocin was positively but weakly associated with postnatal depressive symptoms. The clinical relevance of this finding is negligible in the general population, but unknown in a population with a high risk of depression
Original languageEnglish
Article number103045
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Anxiety
  • Child development
  • Cohort studies
  • Depression
  • Mother-child relations
  • Oxytocin

Cite this