Poster session I Clinical obstetrics, epidemiology, fetus, medical-surgical complications, neonatalogy, physiology/endocrinology, prematurity: Abstracts 87 - 236| Volume 208, ISSUE 1, SUPPLEMENT , S81-S82, January 2013

166: The peri-partum period is characterized by a major alteration in brain neurotransmitters levels–a possible connection to postpartum depression


      Postpartum depression (PPD) which affects 10% to 15% of pregnant women is detrimental to both mother and child. The mechanisms of PPD development are poorly understood. It was recently shown that the placenta is the source of fetal brain serotonin levels and essential for normal fetal brain development. This observation raised a thought that the placenta could also affect maternal serotonin levels, and that upon delivery, major abrupt serotonin level changes take place that may lead to PPD. In this study we investigated the levels of brain serotonin and catecholamines at different stages of pregnancy including midpregnancy, prepartum and postpartum periods.

      Study Design

      We monitored the levels of brain catecholamines, serotonin and their metabolites of 48 BALB/C mice, 12 weeks old which were divided into five experimental groups: control (10 mice, not pregnant), on days 11, 16 and 19 of pregnancy (11 mice each group) and one week postpartum (5 mice). The levels of serotonin, tryptophan, norepinephrine and dopamine were assessed in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and striatum performed by HPLC-ECD and GC-MS while the assessment of 5HT1A message levels were performed by Real Time PCR.


      We found a significant decrease of brain norepinephrine in the hippocampus of postpartum mice (Fig 1). In the hypothalamus, the levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine decreased significantly during pregnancy and postpartum (Table).
      Figure thumbnail grr60
      Hippocampus norepinephrine level measured in non-pregnant BALB/C mice (controls) at 11th, 16th, and 19th day of pregnancy and one week post delivery
      Tabled 1Hypothalamic neurotransmitters and tryptophan measured in BALB/C mice at 11th, 16th and 19th day of pregnancy and one week post delivery
      Table thumbnail grr61


      These findings indicate that during pregnancy and the postpartum period there are major changes in mother's brain of catecholamines levels at sites known to be connected to behavioral changes. The depletion of catecholamines and serotonin during pregnancy and postpartum may be a result of the ageing process of the placenta during pregnancy or the removal of the placenta during labor. Additional data, including that from other mouse strains and behavioral investigations which are on-going will be presented.