Effects of limited bedding and nesting on postpartum mood state in rats

Janace J. Gifford, Jenna R. Pluchino, Rebecca Della Valle, Brooke Van Weele, Emma Brezoczky, Jasmine I. Caulfield, Sonia A. Cavigelli, Jaclyn M. Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study examined the effect of limited bedding and nesting (LBN) stress on postpartum anhedonia, maternal behaviors, anxiety-like behaviors, and neuroendocrine and neuroimmune function as a potential model of postpartum depression. Dams underwent sucrose preference tests prior to breeding, during gestation and again postpartum, to examine the potential onset of anhedonia. On embryonic day 19, dams were placed into either a LBN or control housing condition. Contrary to our predictions, LBN stress had no effect on postpartum sucrose preference. We also found no effect of LBN condition on fecal estradiol or corticosterone levels, both of which increased at birth and decreased postpartum. Regardless of housing conditions, approximately 40% of new mothers exhibited a decrease in sucrose preference, while others show no change, suggesting an individual susceptibility to postpartum anhedonia. In a separate cohort of LBN and control dams, we measured pup retrieval, hoarding behavior, elevated plus maze (EPM), and marble burying. LBN dams exhibited increased anxiety, associated with decreased time spent in the open arms of the EPM. We also measured a significant increase in IL-6 expression in the dorsal hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex of postpartum dams compared to nonpregnant dams. These findings suggest that while LBN stress has effects on anxiety and maternal care, it does not induce postpartum anhedonia. Rather, there are inherent differences in susceptibility to anhedonia in individual dams, and future studies should be conducted to better understand individual vulnerability and resilience to postpartum anhedonia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13275
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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