Neuroendocrinology of childbirth and mother-child attachment: the basis of an etiopathogenic model of perinatal neurobiological disorders

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2014 Oct;35(4):459-72. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2014.03.007. Epub 2014 Apr 3.


This review focuses on the neuroendocrine mechanisms in the mother and the newborn that are involved in the generation and consolidation of mother-child attachment. The role that different hormones and neurotransmitters play on the regulation of these mechanisms during parturition, the immediate postpartum period and lactation is discussed. Interferences in the initiation of mother-child attachment may have potential long-term effects for the behavior and affection of the newborn. Therefore, the possible consequences of alterations in the physiological neuroendocrine mechanisms of attachment, caused by elective Cesarean section, intrapartum hormonal manipulations, preterm delivery, mother-infant postpartum separation and bottle-feeding instead of breastfeeding are also discussed.

Keywords: Autism; Cesarean section; Childbirth; Maternal behavior; Mother–child attachment; Noradrenaline; Oxytocin; Progesterone; Prolactin; Vasopressin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding* / psychology
  • Endocrine System*
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Postpartum Period / physiology