UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Chronic corticosterone during pregnancy and postpartum affects maternal care, cell proliferation and depressive-like behavior in the dam Brummelte, Susanne; Galea, Liisa A. M.


Stress during pregnancy and the postpartum can influence the well-being of both the mother and her offspring. Prolonged elevated levels of glucocorticoids are associated with depression and we developed an animal model of postpartum depression/stress based on high levels of corticosterone (CORT) during the postpartum. Gestational stress is a risk factor for postpartum depression and prenatal and/or postnatal high levels of CORT may have differential effects on the mother. Thus the present study was conducted to investigate the effects of low (10mg/kg) or high levels of CORT (40mg/kg) given to dams either during gestation, postpartum or across both gestation and postpartum on maternal care, depressive-like behavior and hippocampal cell proliferation in the dam. Only the high dose of CORT administered during the postpartum increased depressive-like behavior in the dam. Furthermore the high dose of CORT altered maternal care (reduced time spent on the nest and nursing) regardless of whether administration of CORT was during gestation or postpartum. Gestational and/or postpartum treatment with high CORT and postpartum low CORT reduced cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus of postpartum dams compared to oil-treated controls. Thus prolonged treatment with high levels of CORT postpartum reduced maternal care, hippocampal cell proliferation and induced depressive-like behavior in the dam and therefore might be considered an animal model of postpartum depression. More research is needed to understand the effects of stress hormones during different phases of reproduction and how they affect the brain and behavior of the mother and her offspring.

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