'Love drug' may help mums bond to babies

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It's a shame the resesrchers in this study haven't considered ways of boosting the natural form of this "love drug": natural bitrh and breastfeeding are the most effective ways to promote this chemical and enhance bonding.

A hormone nasal spray may help mothers bond better with their babies.

A world-first trial by Sydney researchers involves giving mothers a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin, often dubbed the ''love drug'' or the ''cuddle chemical''. Past studies have shown mothers who are deficient in oxytocin are less sensitive to their babies' cues than mothers with high levels of the hormone.

It's interesting to take a look at the things that diminish the mother's production of oxytocin: epidurals, infusions of syntocinon (the artificial form of oxytocin that's given to women to induce or speed labour), caesareans and pain-relieving medications.

... University of NSW school of psychology have launched the Mothers Early Experiences of Parenting (MEEP) project, which will use oxytocin nasal spray in combination with infant massage and play sessions. They will then measure eye contact, affectionate touch and feelings of closeness and warmth to see if there is improvement in attachment between mother and child.

... although the role of oxytocin in childbirth and breastfeeding was well documented, scientists were increasingly interested in the hormone's role in human social interaction. It is known to reduce fear, increase empathy and improve memory, especially of happy events.

Hence the research that points to increased rates of violence, suicide, anti-social personality disorders and the like in children who have experienced a raumatic entrance to this world.

''It allows us to recognise and feel connected to loved ones,'' Professor Dadds said. ''So after eye contact, cuddling, even an orgasm, with a loved one, you get a big shot of oxytocin, which increases trust and connection.''

Professor Dadds said oxytocin delivered by nasal spray had very subtle effects but could be a powerful intervention when combined with psychological therapies. ''It's a new age of psychology and medicine working together and magnifying the effects of each other,'' he said.

I'd rather see psychology and midwifery working together: midwifery to promote and protect natural birth, and psychology to work with women to reduce the fear surrounding natural birth, to debrief women of their past traumatic birth experiences, and for supporting programs to be developed that enable women to feel safe and trusting again.

... between 10 and 20 per cent of mothers had post-natal depression, and at least a third of those women had trouble bonding with their babies. An impaired early bond is associated with adverse developmental outcomes for children.

And the major cause of PND and impaired bonding is a traumatic birth experience.

''There's a huge body of research showing that the more securely attached you are by age three to five, the better your outcomes for mental health,'' she said ...

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448