Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Oxytocin


BACKGROUND: British women are increasingly delaying childbirth. The proportion giving birth over the age of 35 rose from 12% in 1996 to 20% in 2006. Women over this age are at a higher risk of perinatal death, and antepartum stillbirth accounts for 61% of all such deaths. Women over 40 years old have a similar stillbirth risk at 39 weeks as women who are between 25 and 29 years old have at 41 weeks.Many obstetricians respond to this by suggesting labour induction at term to forestall some of the risk. In a national survey of obstetricians 37% already induce women aged 40–44 years. A substantial minority of parents support such a policy, but others do not on the grounds that it might increase the risk of Caesarean section. However trials of induction in other high-risk scenarios have not shown any increase in Caesarean sections, rather the reverse. If induction for women over 35 did not increase Caesareans, or even reduced them, it would plausibly improve perinatal outcome and be an acceptable intervention. We therefore plan to perform a trial to test the effect of such an induction policy on Caesarean section rates.This trial is funded by the NHS Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) Programme. DESIGN: The 35/39 trial is a multi-centre, prospective, randomised controlled trial. It is being run in twenty UK centres and we aim to recruit 630 nulliparous women (315 per group) aged over 35 years of age, over two years. Women will be randomly allocated to one of two groups:Induction of labour between 390/7 and 396/7 weeks gestation.Expectant management i.e. awaiting spontaneous onset of labour unless a situation develops necessitating either induction of labour or Caesarean Section.The primary purpose of this trial is to establish what effect a policy of induction of labour at 39 weeks for nulliparous women of advanced maternal age has on the rate of Caesarean section deliveries. The secondary aim is to act as a pilot study for a trial to answer the question, does induction of labour in this group of women improve perinatal outcomes? Randomisation will occur at 360/7 – 396/7 weeks gestation via a computerised randomisation programme at the Clinical Trials Unit, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. There will be no blinding to treatment allocation. DISCUSSION: The 35/39 trial is powered to detect an effect of induction of labour on the risk of caesarean section, it is underpowered to determine whether it improves perinatal outcome. The current study will also act as a pilot for a larger study to address this question.Trial registration: ISRCTN11517275.

Concepts: Randomized controlled trial, Breech birth, Oxytocin, Labor induction, Pre-eclampsia, Caesarean section, Obstetrics, Childbirth


Interventions for autism are limited. The synthetic hormone oxytocin may provide a potential treatment to improve core social and behavioral difficulties in autism, but its efficacy has yet to be evaluated in young children who potentially may benefit to a greater extent. We investigated the efficacy, tolerability and safety of oxytocin treatment in young children with autism using a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover, clinical trial. Thirty-one children with autism received 12 International Units (IU) of oxytocin and placebo nasal spray morning and night (24 IU per day) for 5 weeks, with a 4-week washout period between each treatment. Compared with placebo, oxytocin led to significant improvements on the primary outcome of caregiver-rated social responsiveness. Overall, nasal spray was well tolerated, and the most common reported adverse events were thirst, urination and constipation. This study is the first clinical trial to support the potential of oxytocin as an early intervention for young children with autism to help improve social interaction deficits.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 27 October 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.162.

Concepts: Adverse event, Oxytocin, Effectiveness, Placebo, Crossover study, Clinical research, Pharmacology, Clinical trial


This study aimed to identify the causal effect of breastfeeding on postpartum depression (PPD), using data on mothers from a British survey, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Multivariate linear and logistic regressions were performed to investigate the effects of breastfeeding on mothers' mental health measured at 8 weeks, 8, 21 and 32 months postpartum. The estimated effect of breastfeeding on PPD differed according to whether women had planned to breastfeed their babies, and by whether they had shown signs of depression during pregnancy. For mothers who were not depressed during pregnancy, the lowest risk of PPD was found among women who had planned to breastfeed, and who had actually breastfed their babies, while the highest risk was found among women who had planned to breastfeed and had not gone on to breastfeed. We conclude that the effect of breastfeeding on maternal depression is extremely heterogeneous, being mediated both by breastfeeding intentions during pregnancy and by mothers' mental health during pregnancy. Our results underline the importance of providing expert breastfeeding support to women who want to breastfeed; but also, of providing compassionate support for women who had intended to breastfeed, but who find themselves unable to.

Concepts: Baby bottle, Causality, Oxytocin, Maternal bond, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Breastfeeding


Advanced maternal age (≥35 years) is associated with increased rates of operative delivery, stillbirth, and post-term labour induction. The physiological causes remain uncertain, although impaired myometrial function has been implicated. To investigate the hypothesis that maternal age directly influences successful parturition, we assessed the timing of birth and fetal outcome in pregnant C57BL/6J mice at 3 months (young), 5 (intermediate) months vs. 8 months (older) of age using infra-red video recording. Serum progesterone profiles, myometrium and cervix function, and mitochondrial electron transport chain complex enzymatic activities were also examined. Older pregnant mice had longer mean gestation and labour duration (P <  0.001), as well as reduced litter size (P <  0.01) vs. 3 month old mice. Older mice did not exhibit the same decline in serum progesterone concentrations as younger mice. Cervical tissues from older mice were more distensible than younger mice (P <  0.05). Oxytocin receptor and connexin-43 mRNA expression were reduced in myometrium from 8 month vs. 3 month old mice (P <  0.05, P <  0.01 respectively) in tandem with more frequent, but shorter duration spontaneous myometrial contractions (P <  0.05) and an attenuated contractile response to oxytocin. Myometrial mitochondrial copy number was reduced in older mice, but there were no age-induced changes to the enzymatic activities of the mitochondrial electron transport chain complexes. In conclusion, 8 month old mice provide a useful model of reproductive ageing. This study has identified potential causes of labour dysfunction amenable to investigation in older primigravid women. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Cellular respiration, Reactive oxygen species, Oxytocin, Adenosine triphosphate, Pregnancy, Uterus, Childbirth


Serotonin and vitamin D have been proposed to play a role in autism; however, no causal mechanism has been established. Here, we present evidence that vitamin D hormone (calcitriol) activates the transcription of the serotonin-synthesizing gene tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) in the brain at a vitamin D response element (VDRE) and represses the transcription of TPH1 in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier at a distinct VDRE. The proposed mechanism explains 4 major characteristics associated with autism: the low concentrations of serotonin in the brain and its elevated concentrations in tissues outside the blood-brain barrier; the low concentrations of the vitamin D hormone precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D3]; the high male prevalence of autism; and the presence of maternal antibodies against fetal brain tissue. Two peptide hormones, oxytocin and vasopressin, are also associated with autism and genes encoding the oxytocin-neurophysin I preproprotein, the oxytocin receptor, and the arginine vasopressin receptor contain VDREs for activation. Supplementation with vitamin D and tryptophan is a practical and affordable solution to help prevent autism and possibly ameliorate some symptoms of the disorder.-Patrick, R. P., Ames, B. N. Vitamin D hormone regulates serotonin synthesis. Part 1: relevance for autism.

Concepts: Receptor, Vitamin D, Tryptophan hydroxylase, Protein, Oxytocin, Serotonin, Vasopressin, Hormone


Many biological functions are conserved, but the extent to which conservation applies to integrative behaviors is unknown. Vasopressin and oxytocin neuropeptides are strongly implicated in mammalian reproductive and social behaviors, yet rodent loss-of-function mutants have relatively subtle behavioral defects. Here we identify an oxytocin/vasopressin-like signaling system in Caenorhabditis elegans, consisting of a peptide and two receptors that are expressed in sexually dimorphic patterns. Males lacking the peptide or its receptors perform poorly in reproductive behaviors, including mate search, mate recognition, and mating, but other sensorimotor behaviors are intact. Quantitative analysis indicates that mating motor patterns are fragmented and inefficient in mutants, suggesting that oxytocin/vasopressin peptides increase the coherence of mating behaviors. These results indicate that conserved molecules coordinate diverse behavioral motifs in reproductive behavior.

Concepts: Behavior, Psychology, Mating, Reproduction, Oxytocin, Sexual intercourse, Sex, Sexual dimorphism


Maternal obesity during pregnancy has been associated with increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), in offspring. Here, we report that maternal high-fat diet (MHFD) induces a shift in microbial ecology that negatively impacts offspring social behavior. Social deficits and gut microbiota dysbiosis in MHFD offspring are prevented by co-housing with offspring of mothers on a regular diet (MRD) and transferable to germ-free mice. In addition, social interaction induces synaptic potentiation (LTP) in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of MRD, but not MHFD offspring. Moreover, MHFD offspring had fewer oxytocin immunoreactive neurons in the hypothalamus. Using metagenomics and precision microbiota reconstitution, we identified a single commensal strain that corrects oxytocin levels, LTP, and social deficits in MHFD offspring. Our findings causally link maternal diet, gut microbial imbalance, VTA plasticity, and behavior and suggest that probiotic treatment may relieve specific behavioral abnormalities associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Concepts: Oxytocin, Behavior, Microbiology, Autism spectrum, Social relation, Psychology, Gut flora, Autism


The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has recently added desmopressin, a synthetic analogue of the endogenous peptide hormone arginine vasopressin, to the Prohibited List, owing to the potential masking effects of this drug on hematic parameters useful to detect blood doping. A qualitative method for detection of desmopressin in human urine by high-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) has been developed and validated. Desmopressin purification from urine was achieved by means of delipidation with a 60:40 di-isopropyl ether/n-butanol and solid-phase extraction with WCX cartridges. The lower limit of detection was 25 pg/mL. Extraction recovery was determined as 59.3% (SD 29.4), and signal reduction owing to ion suppression was estimated to be 42.7% (SD 12.9). The applicability of the method was proven by the analysis of real urine samples obtained after intravenous, oral and intranasal administration of desmopressin, achieving unambiguous detection of the peptide in all the cases. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Concepts: Oxytocin, Diabetes insipidus, Desmopressin, Tandem mass spectrometry, Hormone, Vasopressin, Mass spectrometry, World Anti-Doping Agency


: To compare immediate with delayed (4 hours) oxytocin infusion after amniotomy on vaginal delivery within 12 hours and patient satisfaction with the birth process.

Concepts: Uterus, Tocolytic, Caesarean section, Obstetrics, Vagina, Randomized controlled trial, Oxytocin, Childbirth


Objective To assess the ability of the Bishop score to predict the mode of delivery in women scheduled for induction of labor at term.Study Design We performed a systematic literature search of electronic databases from inception to July 2009. Studies reporting on both the Bishop score and the outcome of labor in women scheduled for induction of labor at term were eligible. We used a bivariate model to estimate a summary receiver operating characteristic (sROC) curve for the outcome cesarean delivery.Results We included 40 primary articles reporting on 13,757 women. Study quality was mediocre. The sROC curve of the Bishop score in the prediction of cesarean delivery indicated a poor predictive capacity. For the prediction of cesarean delivery, the sensitivity-specificity combinations were 47%-75%, 61%-53% and 78%-44% for the Bishop scores of 4, 5, and 6, respectively. For a Bishop score below 9, the sensitivity-specificity combination was 95%-30%.Conclusion The Bishop score is a poor predictor for the outcome of induced labor at term and should not be used to decide whether to induce labor or not.

Concepts: Oxytocin, Labor induction, Pre-eclampsia, Obstetrics, Caesarean section, Childbirth